Recruiting new Trustees is a challenge which faces all small charities from time to time.

Every charity knows that it should demonstrate diversity amongst its Board members, and recruit Trustees with the skill sets it needs. As with many things, these are easier said than done.

For a start, few small charities are trampled to death in the rush of would-be trustees. On the contrary, it is often difficult to find volunteers interested in this demanding and responsible role. Whilst there are organisations such as Trustees Unlimited which can assist in this task, the further away from London and other major conurbations, the harder it is to recruit any trustees, let alone the ones needed to ensure a diverse and balanced Board.

One charity I know used to have a Board consisting of 8 trustees, of whom only one was a woman. The remainder were white middle-aged or elderly males. Realising that this had to change, the Chairman encouraged his fellow trustees to look round for suitable candidates. He spread by word-of-mouth the fact that the charity wanted more trustees to give the board a better balance than it had, and at the same time bring skills and experience that the board currently lacked. This wasn’t achieved in a matter of months; but after several years and the retirement of some existing board members, that charity now has a 50-50 female/male balance, with a much greater age range than was previously the case. The board also includes people of different ethnic origins and at least one who has a disability. The skill set is much improved too. All this was achieved without spending large sums of money on recruitment agencies or newspaper advertising. So it can be done!

Diversity should not be achieved at the expense of merit. However diverse a board may be, it is useless if it cannot fulfil its role effectively. So any recruitment process, particularly where there are more candidates than trustee positions to be filled, needs to ensure that the best people are selected. Meritocracy and diversity are not mutually exclusive: on the contrary, an effective selection process ensures that they go hand-in-hand.

Trustees of small charities face new challenges as we emerge from coronavirus restrictions. But these challenges can be met and overcome by ensuring in the first instance that the Board of Trustees is appropriately balanced with trustees who have the skills and experience it needs.