A more inclusive approach to attract the right expertise and diversity

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When Girls Friendly Society (GFS) needed to recruit trustees and committee members, they overhauled their approach to find the right people who were really up for the challenge.

GFS supports and inspires girls and young women to build strong foundations that will prepare them for life’s challenges. To strengthen their governance and assure the charity’s long-term future, they changed their board and committee structure. Leanne Massey, Chair, explained: “We were at an important point in our organisation’s history and we wanted to recruit people who were really up for the challenge, and who brought the right expertise and diversity”. 

The charity started with a skills audit, assessing existing board expertise against what they needed to carry out their strategy, and for good governance. They mapped this against SMT expertise, and identified the skills they most needed to recruit. They also wanted to increase diversity around ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and disability. Leanne challenged the board and team to develop a recruitment process that would attract people with this range of characteristics. 

GFS advertised through a wide range of channels, and proactively encouraged friends and supporters to share the opportunity with their networks. They invested time and effort in updating the recruitment pack, laying out the challenges that GFS face, and the role that trustees and committee members can play. They put it up front, in all the recruitment materials, that they wanted to hear from young women, people from marginalised communities, and people who are passionate about equality and feminism. They also ran two online welcome events. “These were a game changer”, said Laura Sercombe, the CEO. “We shared with a real sense of honesty, the opportunities, our strategy and what we are looking to do. We were overwhelmed with attendees and the conversation went on for much longer than we expected! They were really engaged with our work, and asked lots of challenging questions. The result was that we received over 45 applications from women looking to get involved at trustee and committee level”. 

“If we’d recruited by a tap on the shoulder, we’d not have had this kind of diversity, and we’d not have had this kind of passion. 

GFS ran ‘short and punchy’ interviews with all applicants and at times of the day that made these possible for working people. The end results were impressive. GFS recruited eight trustees, three committee chairs, as well as generating a pipeline of further committee members and future trustees. The appointees brought the expertise that GFS was looking for, and much greater diversity in terms of ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability. They now have three young trustees (under 30 years). Just as importantly, the new trustees have a real enthusiasm for GFS and a strong desire to play their role in GFS’s plans. Laura explained: “If we’d recruited by a tap on the shoulder, we’d not have had this kind of diversity, and we’d not have had this kind of passion. The process itself attracted people who understood where we’re going, and who want to be a part of that.” 

It was a positive experience for the applicants too. One candidate said: “I found the process really easy to navigate and I especially liked the pre-application information evening that allowed ‘silly questions’ to be aired in a safe and inclusive environment. As a first time trustee, I felt supported and engaged throughout the whole process.”

Another applicant agreed: “I would say, GFS’s recruitment process was an outstanding and optimistic experience! GFS is clearly open to change, excited about our opinions, and offers me a real opportunity to advocate for girls!”. The next step is onboarding. Leanne said: “We’ve got a full induction planned but we’re pacing it so that we don’t make it too onerous. And we’ll be evaluating the whole recruitment process to see what we can learn from it.”

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