What every trustee should know

Ian Joseph, Chief Executive of Trustees Unlimited

NCVO’s Trustee Conference this year focuses on the importance of good leadership and governance in charities and I am delighted to be running a workshop on behalf of Trustees Unlimited entitled, ‘What every new trustee should know.’

Last year, Trustees Unlimited surveyed 1,600 trustees to find out their motivations behind becoming a trustee and also how they found the process of finding a role. We discovered that the number one attraction of trusteeship for people is to ‘give something back’ (55%), secondly, to gain new skills and improve professional development (33%), and thirdly, people become trustees because they are committed to a charity’s cause (30%).

The research also revealed that people had encountered barriers in their journey to becoming a trustee. The main hurdle was the lack of information about available vacancies and knowledge about what the role involves. People said that charities are not good at promoting trusteeships and perhaps this explains why 38% of people questioned were still looking for a trustee position.

Out of those that had found a trusteeship, 45% had responded to a job advert and 45% had been recruited via an acquaintance or colleague. It seems that fact that charities are recruiting in such a narrow way, using their own networks to find new recruits could be hindering their board diversity. One in five trustees we surveyed said their charity board lacks a diverse range of skills and over half (51%) said a more diverse board would enhance their charity’s effectiveness.

To attract a greater number of trustees, charities must do more to promote their opportunities and also educate people about what the role entails and offer more support for those who take up the position.

The main difficulties cited by trustees in taking up a trustee role were time commitments, the difficulty in understanding financial management issues and governance as well as their role and their responsibilities. We were surprised to find that one in ten respondents said they hadn’t been given the charities’ governing documents to read when they started as a trustee.

43% said they hadn’t received an induction and 46% hadn’t seen any job description outlining their remit and responsibilities. Over half wanted more training in governance, in managing risks and liabilities and in finance.

Charities have an obligation to ensure trustees are fully aware of their responsibilities and that proper inductions are provided so new members of the board understand the correct policies and procedures. Good governance should include training for all trustees, from new recruits to long time servers, and it seems clear that some charities are falling down in this respect and need to rethink their investment in governance training.

So there are two key issues here, charities need to do more to publicise their trusteeships to attract newcomers and also give trustees the start they deserve by providing a good induction and on-going support and training to ensure all trustees can make a valuable contribution.


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2 Responses to What every trustee should know

  1. Dear NCVO.
    This organisation is but eighteen months young, founded to provide a service and environment where mature men [18 plus!], can meet to socialise, and be involved in hobbies, personal or community-based projects, relax over a cuppa and have fun. In the process, we have set in place, safety and organisational systems that provide the necessary insurances and health & safety regimes that ordinary businesses have, that minimise individual and collective liability for the members. For this to work satisfactorily, much personal time and commitment has been necessary, towards achieving this status. During this process, the membership agreed for the Management Committee to pursue becoming a CIO. This particular status appears to offer the most efficient and acceptable profile to attract future funding and investment that should secure the continued development, growth and reinforcement of the Organisation’s aims.

    To achieve CIO status, an additional tier of organisation and control is apparently required by the Charities Commission, in the shape of Trustees. The convolution of their model constitution has not been the most enervating exercise for such a small, community-based organisation and we have yet to “test the waters” by submitting our application. In the course of this pursuit, we have divined that a variety of skills is the ideal mix required for the suggested numbers of Trustees. This is supported by the various submissions included on the NCVO web-site.

    What is difficult for us, is understanding the obscure and confusing numbers of acronymic references to what are apparently useful pieces of information we might need, when inviting potential candidates to join us as Trustees that are apparently needed, (so it would seem), to underpin our management structure. Or even, simply to decifer how few such persons we should invite at this early stage, or where from! We have some ideas, of course but nothing precise.

    So, at last, one might say, what we would appreciate, is a bibliography of all those acronyms, to enable us to refine our internet researches, as accurately and appositely, as possible! We may then be able to more decisively, select from the plethora of informative but sectionalised articles in the crammed selection, as to which is relavent to what we actually need, for the success of our mission.

    In conclusion, I would add that we are among the founding member “Sheds” for The UK Men’s Sheds Association, shortly to be publicly launched in London, in early November, at a meeting to be held at Conference Hall, The Indian YMCA, Fitzroy Crescent, in London NW. The aim, to provide a collective voice and presence in support of Community-Based Men’s Sheds, in furtherance of the Health and Social Benefits they are proven to provide, in significantly improving men’s health and well-being.

    Men in Sheds MK, with approximately sixty members, is proud to have achieved so much in barely eighteen months, by attracting the attention of our two local Members of Parliament, our current Mayor, his Deputy and two former Lady Mayors, with our activities. Plus BBC Look East, ITV News Network, BBC Three Counties Radio, many newspapers and people across the UK, wanting to know how to set up a “Shed”, local to them! All of us are “Volunteers” in “The Shed”! What we seek, is focused guidance in our biggest challenge to date, achieving CIO status.

    Thank you for your patience, in reading through this plea!
    Yours Sincerely,
    Nigel Paterson, Secretary,
    Men in Sheds MK.

  2. Pingback: It’s Trustees’ Week 2013!: 4th-10th November « www.volunteercentres.org.uk