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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Problem page: How to recruit trustees

This feature is about 3 years old

Got a problem that’s holding your organisation back? Aunt Tiffany knows everyone who’s anyone in the third sector – and will find someone with the answer you seek.

“I’m the chair of the board of trustees at a small charity. A continual problem we are having is recruiting board members. As many of our original board members have moved on, we are looking to recruit new people from different backgrounds. What is the best way to go about doing this?”

Identifying the skills you need is key to ensuring that you are targeting the right people. Consider what knowledge and experience the board already has. Where are the gaps? Do you need someone with HR experience, or campaigning skills? How about some legal or financial expertise? Draft a role description covering the duties of the trustee, any specific skills required, and an outline of the organisation and its priorities. But be realistic – commitment and a willingness to learn new skills are just as important as formal qualifications.

Less than 10% of trustee vacancies are ever advertised, with most charities recruiting through word-of-mouth. Yet if you rely on your existing networks, then you’re only going to get more of the same, which can leave you with a board where it’s difficult to challenge and spark debate, with a lack of diversity and community representation.

This lack of diversity can have the potential to hit your charity where it really hurts – financially. More and more funders are looking at board composition, and if your trustees lack different life experiences and aren’t representative of the community you serve, it could prove difficult to make your case for funding.

As the sector faces more and more challenges – austerity, increasing legislation and Brexit, to name but a few – your board needs to be as effective as possible.

With an open and professional trustee recruitment process, you’ve got more chance of your board meeting all the strategic, financial and legal demands on the horizon.

We all know that finding good trustees can be difficult, but there’s a lot of help out there. You can advertise your vacancies at Goodmoves and Volunteer Scotland to ensure you get the advert out there. Your local third sector interface may also be able to help. And be sure to create a page on Good HQ, where potential board members will be able to read reviews from your supporters and service users.

The main thing to ensure is that you have a diverse board with a good mixture of age, experience, skills and backgrounds. This might lead to differences of opinion at meetings, but that’s healthy and good, as long as it’s managed in a positive way.

Once you’ve recruited your trustees, a proper induction is important. At the most basic level, this should include giving your trustees a copy of your constitution, your last set of accounts, a timetable of meetings, and an opportunity to meet other trustees before the first board meeting. And assigning them a mentor from your existing board is also a good way to make them feel welcome.

We all know that horrible feeling of being thrown in at the deep end. A thorough, clear and welcoming induction will help your trustees settle into their new role and understand your organisation, and hopefully mean they are there to help for years to come.

This month solution was provided by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) information team.

Do you have an issue for our problem page? Email [email protected] for an answer. Call SCVO’s information service helpline on 0800 169 0022 for a more immediate response.



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