Grant Taylor reflects on recruiting charity trustees in 2023.

Attracting and retaining skilled and motivated trustees to charity boards continues to be challenging. As life gets busier and priorities change, becoming a trustee often feels like a bigger commitment than it once was, and people feel that they don’t have the time to be a trustee. Quite rightly, there is an increased focus on performance and trustee accountability so the role can also feel more structured and demanding too.

Reflecting on my ability to operate as a trustee now is interesting. My day-to-day life is busy. I run Peridot Partners, which has over 50 staff and is growing. I coach and manage a grassroots football team. I have three children. It’s also important for me to recharge through exercise or quiet reflection and time alone. On paper, I don’t really have the time to be a trustee.

But I love being a trustee, so I make time to do it and ensure my time is spent effectively. I won’t overstay. In other words, when I feel that I’ve made a positive contribution and my most effective days are perhaps behind me, I will move on for somebody with fresh skills, perspectives and energy to take the seat.

I’m in my fourth Trustee role and currently Co-Chair of Getting on Board. I left my previous three trusteeships before completing the maximum term. Does that call my commitment into question?

Not at all!  It is a maximum term.

It is a limit to ensure that charities keep their boards fresh, helps create the turnover for greater diversity, and dare I say, gives them the means to move people on when they need to. After all, a 3-, 4- or 5-year commitment to a paid job is seen as a good one – so, why shouldn’t that also be the case for a volunteer commitment? Especially if you give it everything you can whilst you have the seat!

I’m sure others feel the same, but as a recruiter in this post-pandemic world, I’m also finding that people have become more discerning with their time and less inclined to explore trusteeship in the first place.

So, given my experience on both sides of the table, what tips can I offer to make sure that you can attract and retain trustees who can make a positive impact?

How can you attract trustees?

If we are going to maximise the outcomes from the board, we first need to focus on the inputs. If we’re going to have more turnover on charity boards and ensure this is a good thing, then we need to be better at recruitment, induction, training and succession.

Despite pressures on our time, there are so many people seeking meaning and who want to contribute to charities. How do we catch their attention? How can we engage them, recruit, induct and train them to be fully effective trustees who feel that their contribution is really valued?  How do we communicate the benefits of trusteeship and being on the board of a charity?

Getting on Board does a huge amount of work in this area. Advising on open recruitment and better promotion of roles is one part of it. The reality is, however, that most advertising is underwhelming and will never reach or connect with the people we need most. These are the younger, under-represented, ethnically and neurodiverse, as well as those who have philanthropic aspirations and would be brilliant trustees… if only they knew what it was to be one and were clear about how to become one.

So here are some quick, simple and powerful tips on attracting the trustees your charity needs most:

  • Show them that they can be trustees and outline the role you want them to play (without copying and pasting the role profile)! Connect this to your strategy and your charity’s direction.
  • Be clear about why you need their skills, experience and background so they can see that they can make a tangible contribution to your cause.
  • Tell a story about the impact the trustees/board has on the organisation. Can you show them something about the culture of the board and what actually happens at board meetings?
  • Help them see the impact the charity has and connect this back to the board/trustee role.
  • Show how you will induct and develop them to help them grow personally and professionally.

If you would like advice on developing your board, creating a more compelling proposition to prospective Trustees, or for support on recruiting new people, I can either direct you to what Getting on Board offers or put you in contact with somebody relevant at Peridot Partners.

Grant Taylor – Managing Director, Peridot Partners.

If you feel that you have the time to be a trustee, register your interest through our BoardMatch portal.