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Tips on Trustee Recruitment

It has been widely reported over recent years that small charities are facing increased financial pressures at a time when demand for support from those charities is on the rise.  So now more than ever it is essential that charities are recruiting the right talent to sit on their boards in order to navigate these key challenges.

Over the summer, the Charity Commission issued guidance “Finding new trustees: what charities need to know” with a view to assisting charities recruit the right people with the right skills, to positively influence a charity’s effectiveness.

So, what is a charity trustee?  Trustees are the people responsible for the general control and management of the administration of the charity as determined by their governing document.  Naturally this can include a wide range of responsibilities, including accounting, audit requirements, fundraising and marketing.  Trustees are generally unpaid, except for reasonable out of pocket expenses incurred whilst carrying out their duties, unless explicitly provided for within the Charity’s governing document.

We have compiled 5 areas of consideration to assist charities in their recruitment, selection and induction processes:

Know what you want:

Existing trustees may have identified a skills gap within the current board, or you may be recruiting to replace a trustee who is stepping down.  Either way, know from the outset the desired skills required and document this in a role specification, taking care that you also satisfy your charity’s diversity objectives in both your promotion of the role and recruitment of the trustee.  During the recruitment process, the trustees should have established vetting criteria to establish not only the necessary soft and technical skills, but also the right character fit, and should not stray from this.

Identifying a good trustee:

As well as identifying the required technical skills, those charged with the recruitment process should also look for individuals who reflect and have previous knowledge of the communities and sectors that the charity exists to serve.   On a practical note, trustees should be transparent about exactly what will be required of the trustee in terms of time required from the trustee and the voluntary activities they will be expected to perform and align the trustee’s suitability accordingly.

Advertising the role:

Internally:

Advertising internally is always a good idea as existing volunteers will have good knowledge of the charity’s beliefs, objectives and some knowledge as to the Charity’s operations.  Care should be taken when considering an employee of a charity (as opposed to a volunteer) for a trustee role as this may pose a conflict of interests as the law prevents unauthorised payments to trustees.  

Externally:

There are a number of sources available to charities in order to promote trustee vacancies, including NCVO Trustee Bank (subject to membership), as well as the charity’s local Council for Voluntary Services.  When recruiting for specialist skills, sector press is a good option, and not to forget via a Charity’s social media accounts.

Don’t overlook promoting the position to the charity’s users or beneficiaries, as user trustees bring a different perspective to a charity and help develop the charity’s services from a beneficiary’s perspective, although care should be taken here to avoid a conflict of interests and ensure that the trustee acts with the Charity’s best interest rather than their own.

Vetting & Confirmation:

As well as the appointment satisfying the requirement of the charity’s governing document, all usual best practice recruitment checks still apply (i.e. taking up references), Charities should also ensure that any potential trustee is not prohibited by statutory or legal regulations from taking up the appointment. As we reported in summer, from 1st August 2018 new automatic disqualification criteria came into force and charities should build these new restrictions into their recruitment and post appointment declarations.  As a bare minimum, charities should ask new trustees to sign a trustee declaration form to confirm they can legally take up the appointment, but there are a number of additional ways that charities are recommended to vet trustees, including:

a)    via the Individual Insolvency Register

b)    the Register of Disqualified Directors available from Companies House; and

c)    the Charity Commission search of previously disqualified charity trustees.

Further, appropriate checks may also be needed with the Disclosure and Barring Service, for example, when the charity is concerned with working with young people and/or vulnerable adults.   The Charity Commission adopt a variety of methods to ensure that charities are checking the eligibility of their trustees so it is highly recommended that charities always vet potential trustees.

Induction & training:

Once written confirmation of the appointment has been issued to the trustee, a process of induction and training is beneficial, not only for the trustee to become acquainted with the role, but to reassure the charity that the benefits of the new appointment are realised as soon as possible.  Steps should be taken to ensure the trustee is fully aware of the charity’s key policies and procedures including Equality & Diversity, Health & Safety and Data Protection soon after appointment.   NCVO’s “Know How Non Profit” produce a wide range of resources and templates for charities, as well as a Trustee Induction Schedule & Pack which recommends including the following as a minimum:

  • Charity documents, including the charity’s Mission & Vision statements, most recent annual report and accounts, strategic plans and key policies
  • Legal and regulatory guidance, including the governing document and the charity governance code
  • Governance documents, including the trustee’s role description, code of conduct for trustees, list of important dates, and contact details for current trustees.

As part of the induction process, the Charity should take steps to ensure that any training requirements for trustees is identified and offered as soon as possible,  that the trustee is introduced to key figures within the charity including the Chair, CEO or vice CEO, and visits to key charity sites take place to further understand the charity and meet with other key staff.

If you have any questions concerning this article or would like to discuss any aspect in further detail, please contact our charities team.
This guidance should be treated as a general overview and Charities are advised to seek further advice where their particular charity is governed by a differing set of laws and regulations.

Useful links:

For further information please contact a member of our Charities team:

Charity Newsletter

January 2019

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