My reflections on Trustees’ Week 2021

After an excellent Trustees’ Week 2021, I’ve found a lot to reflect on in my first NCVO blog. It’s been fantastic to hear how so many organisations have adapted to our changing world in the past 12 months. I’ve shared some of my key lessons from across the week and links to helpful guidance.  

Getting trustee recruitment right 

Tuesday’s session on the trustee recruitment lifecycle workshop was an in-depth review of the recruitment process and examination of best practices. Janet Thorne, chief executive of Reach Volunteering led the session and was supported by Girls Friendly Society. 

Below are some key points from the session. 

  • The most important phase in the cycle is to reflect – skipping this may leave you lacking direction in your recruitment and without clear outcomes in mind. 
  • A well-prepared recruitment campaign will be accessible, engaging, and create a smooth process for both the organisation and the candidates you attract. 
  • Don’t be afraid to innovate and try new things. Recruitment is a dialogue, so use the things which make your organisation unique to create your recruitment process. 

You can find out more about trustee recruitment through Reach’s Trustee Recruitment Cycle.

Equality, diversity, and inclusion

Making space for diversity and inclusion in an ever-changing world is a challenge right across society. On Wednesday morning an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) webinar was led by Pari Dhillon of the Social Justice Collective and supported by Little Village. Pari took our attendees through the stages of beginning a journey to enhance EDI.  

  • We considered the importance of organisation context in identifying the opportunities to diversify leadership. 
  • We examined the barriers and reasons why this step might not already have been taken. 
  • We looked at the practical and active steps which organisations can take to create a diverse and inclusive board space.  

The Social Justice Collective has collaborated with us on a brand-new EDI in governance training programme, which launches in early 2022. You can also watch a recording of the webinar, or read how Pari recommends applying the EDI principle within the Charity Governance Code. 

The value of regular governance review

On Wednesday I was delighted to be one of the presenters for a webinar looking at the importance of regular review in supporting good governance practice. Alongside my fellow NCVO consultant Dan, we shared our Governance Wheel tool. We were joined by colleagues from the Trusted Charity mark who expanded further to show how external accreditation can drive governance improvement.  

The Trusted Charity mark is delivered by the Growth Company, and we can support organisations in conducting a bespoke governance review through our consultancy team.  

How to lead in mental health and wellbeing

Simon Blake, chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England was our host on Thursday morning for an insightful webinar considering how trustees can lead on positive mental health and wellbeing in their organisations. For me, the key points for reflection from the session are below. 

  • Supporting those around us is about looking out for changes, and being ready to adapt and re-frame our expectations when necessary. 
  • Strong structures, particularly good human resources (HR) structures, can enable great wellbeing. Placing wellbeing at the heart of development of new policies and processes will embed it throughout your work. It’ll make caring for yourself and others feel like a natural part of the organisation. 
  • In an unequal world it’s vital to recognise that our structures and systems place different pressures on certain groups. To lead in positive wellbeing, it’s important to consider these disparities. 

For more information on how to support and lead positive mental health and wellbeing, have a look at the mental health and wellbeing at work guidance on our website.  

Board relationships in uncertain times

Our final event of the week was a panel discussion chaired by NCVO chair, Dr Priya Singh, considering how trustees can strengthen their board relationships in changing circumstances. 

  • Phil Guthrie of Crux shared his thoughts on holding meaningful conversations, even when those conversations might be challenging and uncomfortable. 
  • Roma Hooper, chair of Clinks, highlighted how important it is to keep your board engaged. 
  • Bruce MacDonald of Imagine Canada reflected on the rising demand for charities, and the way charities have had to pivot. 
  • Penny Wilson, chief executive of Getting on Board, spoke about the role of inclusion in creating strong board relationships. 

We know that many boards struggle with building relationships and holding challenging conversations. If you need support with developing relationships on your board, see our guidance on improving your practice in governance, and our upcoming workshop on handling difficult conversations.

Looking to the future

Across the week, something which has really struck me is the desire from trustees to look to the future, and to use this moment as an opportunity to lead their organisations in learning and growing.  

I was reminded during the final session of the week how important it is for the board to get behind the vision and strategic direction of the organisation, and to do so collectively. If you’re looking for support with your purpose or direction, we offer consultancy services and training to help develop your strategy and set your direction for the future. 

Throughout the week we offered free access to our board basics guidance. If you’re not a member, you can sign up for our membership. We also have an eLearning module for trustees, with discounts available for smaller organisations and our members.  

Trustees’ Week 2021 has been an excellent celebration of the work of trustees in their organisations and communities, but the celebration doesn’t stop here. Entries are now open for the Charity Governance Awards, which recognise and reward UK charities achieving great governance by highlighting the trustees, staff and volunteers who make change possible. The awards are free to enter, so get nominating! 

Sally Stephens is one of NCVO’s governance consultants. For more regular updates follow @Sally_Steph or @NCVO on Twitter.


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Sally+Stephens Sally works with charities to provide governance advice and board reviews, as well as delivering training on trusteeship and board effectiveness. She previously worked in an in-house governance support role, leading on board development and strategy.

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