Alastair Keatinge says it’s not just the diversity of trustees we need to widen, it’s the methods used to find them
A welcome aspect of this year’s Trustees’ Week (12-17 November) is the focus on youth - in particular the Young Trustee campaign to get 250 charities to pledge to recruit a young person to their board.
The need for an initiative like this was highlighted in last year’s Taken on Trust report, which showed that the average age of trustees is 60-62, that 64% are male and 92% white. The research is based on trustees in England and Wales only, but there’s no reason to believe the situation in Scotland is significantly different.
There’s another figure in Taken on Trust which received less attention but is equally concerning: that over seven out of ten trustees had been recruited directly by the chair or fellow board members.
Without belittling the brilliant work done by such trustees, it’s not just the diversity of trustees we need to widen, it’s the methods used to find them. If not, diversity will remain elusive or cosmetic.
It’s not just charities who need to think about how to support and encourage young trustees; it’s employers tooAlastair Keatinge
In defence of charities, for many of them, it’s easier said than done to find young trustees – especially when organisations have limited resources to recruit or advertise for trustees.
A good starting point for advice for charities looking to recruit younger trustees (and volunteers) is the Charities Commission’s checklist on Finding and Supporting Young Trustees. It gives good pointers for connecting with young people, such as building relationships with colleges, universities and student unions.
It also includes practical considerations around, for example, the legal issues when recruiting young trustees, the need to avoid tokenism, and the need to provide appropriate support, mentoring or training.
While the checklist focuses on younger trustees, our own experience is that these issues apply with all trustees. Governance training is highly recommended for all charity boards.
It’s not just charities who need to think about how to support and encourage young trustees; it’s employers too. Trusteeship has obvious benefits for charities and society, and also for individuals. But often overlooked is that employers benefit too – it can help recruitment, and young trustees will also develop their soft skills, networks and connections.
The average trustee spends over four hours a week on their duties. Clearly, this will largely be in their own time, but any trustee will still need occasional time off and support to attend a board meeting or event. If there’s a take-out message for employers from this year’s Trustee Week, it’s to do their own bit to support diversity by enabling and encouraging their own staff to sign up and perform their trustee duties effectively.
Lynsey Kerr, Senior Associate in our Private client services team, is a trustee on the board of Lifecare (Edinburgh) Ltd. She said: “I am fully encouraged by Lindsays in my role as a board member. Both myself and the firm’s partners see the benefits of giving back to the community in this way.”
We encourage other employers to do the same.
Alastair Keatinge is a partner and head of charities and third sector at Lindsays.