I am often asked for advice about the organisation and recruitment of Trustee Boards by the charities where I’m working.

Getting this wrong can have serious consequences, as anyone reading the Charity Commission’s feature on the weekly Gov.uk e-mails will know. This week alone, 2 charities are being investigated owing to alleged shortcomings or mismanagement by their trustees.

The precise mix of your Trustee Board will depend on the objects and activities of your charity. But there are a few – fairly obvious – guidelines to remember – but which are often forgotten!

  • A balance of men and women. This doesn’t mean a slavish 50-50 representation; but a Board composed entirely or principally of trustees of one sex is unlikely to be as effective as one with a healthy mix
  • A balance of young and old. Some years ago, I found I was the youngest trustee on a charity board – when I was nearly 60 ! I suggested to the chairman that we should look for some younger trustees. Two people in their 30s were interviewed and both were appointed. They had a dramatic and positive effect on the Trustee Board, balancing the older trustees’ wide experience with the dynamism and enthusiasm which younger people bring to an aging Trust Board
  • An appropriate blend of skills and experience. Some Boards I have worked with seemed to be composed entirely of lawyers and accountants. Whilst these two groups bring important knowledge and skills to any trust board, other experience and know-how are needed and can be provided by clergy, teachers, trades unionists, civil servants – and fundraisers!
  • An ethnic and social mix which reflects both the geographical area where the charity is operating and the ethnicity of the charity’s beneficiaries.

The organisation of the Trustee Board and its operation are critical too. Business plans, GDPR, fundraising strategy, budget, safeguarding – and more – need to be addressed. The Trustee Board has an important role and responsibility in all of this, which should not be left to the Chief Executive or General Manager.

Formal training is important and organisations like NCVO and the Small Charities Coalition provide training for trustees, either centrally or at your charity’s own location.

There are now organisations which specialise in bringing together volunteers who want to be charity trustees and charities which need more trustees. Trustees Unlimited and Reach Volunteering are two of these – but there are many local organisations which serve their communities in this field.