How to write a trustee role cover letter

cover letter written with individual block letters
Bilwa Iyer
Bilwa is an experienced recruitment and HR professional.

Have you recently applied to a trustee vacancy but struggled to write a cover letter? Do you often feel that you don’t know where to start or have even questioned the importance of one?

You are not alone!

Is a cover letter important? My response to this is a very strong yes! Charities have different causes they want to ensure their cause is championed by the most effective and passionate people. Hence a cover letter is the first step in displaying that you are this person!

While a CV tends to give a sketch of your work history, a cover letter helps you showcase your personality and contribution as a trustee.

What you need to remember when writing a trustee cover letter

To begin with, it may be useful to know that trustee cover letters are slightly different from professional ones in both format and tone. Trustee cover letters are simple, have flexible formats and are content focused. They tend to be less business like and more personable. The other important thing to remember is that leaving out a cover letter in a trustee application process is not an option.

Writing such cover letters may seem daunting at first however with little exploration this can be easily accomplished.

These letters basically ask for three key elements:

  1. Your reasons for being drawn to a cause
  2. How you can contribute to the cause as a trustee
  3. Your fit and alignment with the organisation.

So, taking this into account, how can you draft a cover letter that will have an impact?

Show your commitment and passion

Once you have selected a charity with a trustee position you want to apply for, you must show your reasons for wanting to get involved, demonstrating your passion for the cause and your commitment to get - and perhaps more importantly stay - involved. Therefore begin your application by getting to the heart of your charity and knowing what sort of organisation it is and how it runs. You should also be really clear on what the role of a trustee is and how this differs from similar roles in the commercial sector.

A charity’s website is a good place to start background research. Sometimes trustee role descriptions won’t tell you enough to get started, so I’d seek help from your contacts or brokering agencies such as Reach to help you and answer any initial questions you may have.

Example 1

This example highlights how personal experiences can be aligned to charitable objectives and professional expertise. It highlights how one’s life experience can turn into a passion for a cause and an organisation and also demonstrates why the individual wants to get involved.

I have pleasure in attaching my CV to apply as a Trustee for Campaigning and Advocacy for [XX] charity.

I have followed your organisation and admired your work for several years now. I was motivated to apply for this trustee role having been diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy where I was severely hospitalised. Following this experience I realised how much more awareness was needed amongst the general public and what to watch out for. I would therefore love to apply my skills, expertise and passion towards your organisation and helping to steer it towards even greater success.

I served for six years as a trustee for the national charity YY which I found extremely rewarding notably in extending their membership base. I am committed to ensuring that I give the best I can to any organisation I get involved with. I believe I am well-suited to the role as I have significant experience of national campaigning to a target audience, including the execution of multi-channel marketing campaigns.

A charity wants to know that any trustee who joins them will be a valuable asset who will be able to give their time, commitment and passion so if you can show this, you will be in a strong position.

Showcase your experience and skills

Clients are looking for candidates who can demonstrate their contribution as trustees. You need to highlight your professional skills and expertise and show what you will bring to the board. A trustee board should ideally have a mix of different skills, mindsets and experience to show diversity and ensure balance. You need to show in your cover letter what skills you have. When attempting to write down your contribution as a trustee, tailor your letter around the role description and person specification.

Example 2 

This is an example of a thorough cover letter which provides a holistic and clear overview of all their skills.

I believe myself to be competent in this area and can offer the very specific skills and experience you are looking for:

  • Audit, Finance & Risk Management – I am a member of the Governance & Audit Committees at YY and I have contributed to the Board’s consideration of Governance arrangements by …
  • High Level Financial Competence – I am a qualified accountant with a broad base of finance skills but also have the experience to take a lead role in [X].

I can demonstrate dedication to the role and can meet the time commitment to read all papers, prepare for, attend and contribute to meetings in line with the work of the finance and audit committee. I can also undertake to attend training and development and engage pro-actively in the induction process.

  • I can analyse complex information and reach sensible conclusions by demonstrating the ability to communicate effectively with a diverse range of people in a constructive manner.
  • I can work with others effectively and believe teamwork enhances overall performance and can lead to better decisions and services.

In terms of personal qualities:

  • I am can demonstrate that I share the values including that of probity in public life and can also demonstrate a commitment to your charity’s cultural elements...
  • I have a ‘duty of care’ ethos which is at the heart of everything I do and I believe investing in a diverse workforce enables better performance and a more inclusive customer service.

This is an example of a clear cover letter which shows instantly how they align to the needs of the organisation. As with job applications, trustee positions can get a number of applicants so make sure you stand out!

Explain why you would be a good fit in the organisation

Charities are looking for people who can fit into their culture. Make use of relevant and transferable abilities and personal experiences. This is where any personal research you have done and any preliminary conversations you have had will make you stand out.

Trustee vacancies are aligned to charity objectives and you may find as you write about your professional experience that it doesn’t quite fit the job description… don’t worry though! Make your cover letter unique by highlighting your transferable skills from your workplace along with your personal experience, to show what you would bring to the role.

Example 3 

Here’s an example of a cover letter that showcases the skills acquired in the commercial sector tailored to the third sector:

I am currently looking for an opportunity to use my expertise to support a not-for-profit organisation, as for the first time in my business life I am able to commit the time necessary to offer my skills as a trustee in an environment where I can bring real value to a board.

I was drawn to [XX] charity opportunity, as a stated role requirement was the ‘evaluation of complex information, assisting to build consensus and robust governance within the board group’ – which dovetails well with my skills gained over many years in the analysis of complex (often financial) information required in the acquisition, restructuring and improving of operations I have undertaken in many differing arenas.

I have been a Director for many years and have experience in both SME and large international PLC operations. I feel that one of the key strengths I could bring to the trustee board is in negotiation, having spent my entire working life in a commercial environment, negotiating with contractors and suppliers. I am particularly looking for a role where I can bring relevant experience to the table to strengthen the skills base of the existing board.

A charity needs to have people who fit into their organisation whilst at the same time challenging them to reach their full potential. So try to describe how you will fit as well as how you can contribute as a trustee.

In summary

Even the most distinguished CVs need cover letters for trustee vacancies. The above examples of cover letters are in no way exhaustive however, they show effective ways to highlight your relevant skills, passion and experience that any charity would need. Remember the three key elements and steps for trustee applications to guide you and you should craft a cover letter that wows.