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By Mark Atkinson
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Introduction and background 3
Brand Trustee Survey 4
Principal findings 5
Trustee recruitment 7
Trustee induction 10
Trustee engagement 13
Trustee visibility 15
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.
TRUSTEE - NOUN: AN INDIVIDUAL PERSON OR MEMBER OF A
BOARD GIVEN CONTROL OR POWERS OF
ADMINISTRATION OF ASSETS WITH A LEGAL
OBLIGATION TO ADMINISTER THEM SOLELY
FOR THE PURPOSES SPECIFIED.
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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
The survey sought the views of these 3 constituent groups in 4 areas:
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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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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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.
CHECKING COMMITMENT LEVELS
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 PROBATIONARY PERIODS
(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
Have a proper interview process
Obtain references and check social media profiles
Allow prospective Trustees to observe a Board meeting before