A more diverse board of trustees could breathe new life into a charity and help you better achieve your goals.

Everyone involved in the not for profit sector knows that a charity is only as good as its trustees. 

Those of us who take on that role are possibly, after the beneficiaries, the most important people in any charity. The trustees provide leadership and it is with them that real responsibility rests. In a perfect world, trustees would therefore be immortal, perpetually engaged, fully aware of every change, and never retire. Sadly, that is rarely the case and picking the right replacements is essential. 

Recruiting the right trustees

The Charity Commission recognises the importance of having good trustees and has published a guidance note – Finding New Trustees (CC30) - to help charities recruit new trustees. 

The key points are simple: 

  • Decide what skills you need 
  • Find some potential candidates 
  • Vet those candidates 
  • Appoint them 
  • Nurture them (otherwise all this effort is wasted) 

How diverse are charity boards?

The reality is sometimes a little different from what the Charity Commission recommends, however. We all know charities whose existing trustees tend to recruit new trustees who are remarkably similar to themselves. There are often good reasons for this, but it has led to a situation has been described as “90% of boards include a trustee called John or David”. That quote is unlikely to be true, but it does say something about how the wider public sees charity boards. 

And that is a great shame because it deters a more diverse selection of individuals from coming forwards. 

Why diversity matters

Of course, diversity is not an end in itself. And there is no preconception about diversity – it just means something different to what you already have. 

The reason for seeking diversity needs to be to help the charity best meet its objectives. By recruiting from a wider group of candidates, the charity can benefit from: 

  • Differing perspectives and experiences 
  • Changing public perception of the charity 
  • Distributing the skills learnt as a trustee into the wider community 
  • A board that better matches the lives of the charity’s beneficiaries 

When going through the trustee recruitment process it is worth discussing how diversity could help fill any gaps in your necessary skills. And remember that diversity can come in all sorts of different forms – just look at what you have. 

By Stuart Carrington, Partner

If you would like any help with your trustee recruitment and development please contact me or your usual Thomas Westcott advisor. Our Charities and Not for Profit team regularly advises our charity clients on such issues and are always happy to help.