Brand Trustee

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    Brand Trustee

    By Mark Atkinson

  • Page 2 of 19


    Introduction and background 3

    Brand Trustee Survey 4

    Principal findings 5

    Trustee recruitment 7

    Trustee induction 10

    Trustee engagement 13

    Trustee visibility 15

    Conclusions 17

    Useful sources of information 18

    About VCSchange 19

    2015 VCSchange maintains the copyright on all content included in this report. Reprint or

    reproduction is not permitted without prior consent.

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    Introduction and background

    With over 197,000 charities registered in the UK, a conservative estimate places the number

    of Trustee roles in excess of 1 million.

    Trustees are accountable for the

    strategic decisions of the charities

    they serve and with so much

    responsibility, it is natural that they

    are subject to scrutiny.

    Being a Trustee should be an

    enriching and satisfying experience

    for the individual, the charity and all

    those engaged in its running.

    In order to achieve a high level of satisfaction between Trustee and charity, it is necessary to

    ensure that the recruitment and induction processes for new Trustees are appropriately

    rigorous and that all Trustees are sufficiently engaged in the work of the charity. There is

    clearly a distinction between engagement and visibility which raises the question of the

    merits of Trustee visibility to employees and volunteers involved in the day to day

    operations of charities.

    The size of the charity may well influence some or all of these factors but minimum

    standards need to be reached or indeed aspired to.

    This report focusses on the experiences collected from a group of 68 Trustees, employees

    and volunteers presently engaged in charities of various sizes. It shares findings,

    recommendations and the candid views of the contributors.






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    Brand Trustee Survey

    The Brand Trustee Survey was carried out by Mark Atkinson at VCSchange. In order to

    encourage complete candour, respondents were invited to participate in the report


    The survey considered the opinion of 3 groups:

    Employees of charities

    Trustees of charities

    Volunteers (non-Trustees)

    The survey sought the views of these 3 constituent groups in 4 areas:

    Trustee recruitment

    Trustee induction

    Trustee engagement

    Trustee visibility

    With reference to Trustee recruitment, induction, engagement and visibility, the aims of the

    survey were specifically to:

    add further insight to, validate or indeed invalidate the perceptions held by those

    engaged in the sector

    identify areas of good practice and opportunities to highlight were good practice

    may be achieved

    ascertain what additional support might be needed to ensure better outcomes for

    Trustees and the charities they work with

    Responses to the survey indicated that there remains a possible research gap. Size of charity

    is an influencing factor when it comes to Trustee recruitment, induction, engagement and

    visibility. We suggest that a further study on the interrelationship between charity turnover

    and the specific topic areas would be of benefit to the sector.

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    Principal findings

    More than 1 in 5 respondents (22%) felt that Trustee recruitment processes at their charity were not sufficiently rigorous or not rigorous at all. This rose to 24% of

    respondents who were Trustees. 46% cited the processes as sufficiently rigorous.

    Only 54% of respondents felt that Trustee induction processes were good with 34%

    citing the processes as sufficiently good. Almost a third of respondents (31%) felt

    that induction processes were not very good or not good at all. 39% of Trustee

    respondents felt that induction processes were inadequate.

    75% of respondents felt that their Trustees were engaged in the work of the charity

    outside the normal cycle of board meetings with the majority (42%) citing their

    Trustees as being sufficiently engaged.

    41% of respondents felt that Trustees at their charity were not very visible or not

    visible at all to staff other than senior managers. The figures further revealed that

    55% of employee respondents felt that their Trustees were not very visible or not

    visible at all compared to 26% of Trustee respondents.

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    We asked respondents the following opening question:

    Are you answering this survey in your capacity as an employee, Trustee or volunteer (non

    Trustee) of a UK charity?

    Employee 20 29%

    Trustee 46 68%

    Volunteer (non Trustee) 2 3%

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    Trustee recruitment

    We asked respondents the following question:

    How rigorous is the Trustee recruitment process at your charity?

    Extremely rigorous 3 4%

    Very rigorous 13 19%

    Sufficiently rigorous 31 46%

    Not very rigorous 10 15%

    Not rigorous at all 5 7%

    Don't know 6 9%

    We are a member organisation

    and more often than not when a

    vacancy for a Trustee occurs

    members who are voted in are

    normally done so because they are

    known by other members socially.

    The result is that we often lack

    specific skills on the Board but have

    changed the Trustee recruitment

    process to ensure that potential

    Trustees recognise the skills

    required and responsibilities


    We carry out a skills audit but

    then don't do anything with it.

    Trustee recruitment is to ask for volunteers and hold a

    ballot of members if necessary so no account of skills

    needed/ balance on the board.

    When I took over my charity three years ago I let the

    5 Trustees I had go as they were just bums on seats.

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    Respondents were asked the following supplementary question:

    If you have any ideas that could inject further rigour into Trustee recruitment processes,

    please share them.

    Comments received have been banded into the following 5 areas demonstrating a degree of

    consensus on thinking:


    Clearer identification of skills required and deliberate matching to those requirements

    Audit of Trustee skills prior to search for Trustees, rather than just jumping into the water.

    Our CEO did skills mapping and recruited to gaps as much as possible

    Look at the strengths and weaknesses of the board and target the gaps.

    Identifying the skills gap within existing Trustees and specifically appoint to fill those gaps.

    (Undertake) a skills audit of existing Trustees.


    There are not so many people out there with the time, commitment and necessary skills to

    be a Trustee, given the rather onerous responsibilities a Trustee takes on.

    Part of the problem is that anyone who actually understands what the Charity Commission,

    funders, regulators, child protection agencies etc. require, might not feel willing to do the


    Seek commitment to more than just attending board meetings.

    The 'four board meetings a year with a bit of prep time' may be far from reality if there are

    serious issues within the Charity.

    We are a specialist faith based charity, with operations across the country, but not a

    household name. The main challenge in recruiting Trustees is to reach potential candidates

    who have both the faith commitment and skill range.


    Ensure that Trustees have an informal meeting with another Trustee other than the Chair.

    Have a 'getting to know the organisation' session prior to first stage interview.

    Interview potential Trustees against the competencies required for the role.

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    (Have an) open and transparent attraction process utilising a two stage interview process

    Part of the recruitment process should be situation specific and honest with Trustees about

    the tests they will face and the time commitment required.

    Ensure that the individuals can work with one another.

    Look for real evidence of skills and behaviours at interview


    Ensure that references are obtained.

    Get the lowdown ... ask for three references - and don't just ask for general comments but

    specific input relevant to the competency you seek.


    (Offer) a probationary period for Trustees to ensure they are of use to the organisation.

    We appoint new Trustees as co-optees for a period of about 6 months, to allow both them

    and the Board to assess whether they should continue. This is helpful all round, and

    occasionally people do withdraw during this period.


    Undertake a board skills audit to identify gaps

    Ensure role descriptions are up to date

    Be honest about the requirements and check candidates have the

    necessary commitment

    Have a proper interview process

    Obtain references and check social media profiles

    Allow prospective Trustees to observe a Board meeting before