The Trustee Recruitment Cycle has been developed by Reach Volunteering in collaboration with Association of Chairs, Small Charities Coalition and Getting on Board. It supports boards to recruit trustees in an effective and inclusive way.
Why good trustee recruitment matters
Trustees play an essential role for the charities they lead, setting the strategic direction, making key decisions and ensuring accountability. To do this well, trustees need to have a broad range of experiences, perspectives and skills, and they need to be representative of the communities they serve.
Despite this, over 70% of boards still recruit their trustees informally, using their own networks. As a result, boards lack diversity. Trustees are disproportionately male (64%), white (92%), older (on average, over 60) and more affluent (75% have household income over national median). They also often lack skills in key areas such as digital and marketing.
This needs to change if charities are going to have the leadership they need for the future.
Good, inclusive trustee recruitment is a big part of the answer. Partly because it is how boards strengthen representation and increase their range of skills. But also because it can be a powerful trigger for a board to consider wider questions. Who should be leading their organisation? Who is missing? What needs to change so that new and different trustees can participate on an equal footing?
Making it easier to recruit, and challenging boards to do it better
Trustee recruitment can be hard. It means recruiting for a strategic role with significant responsibility, with no pay. The trustees leading the process may have limited recruitment experience themselves, and little time to spare on doing it well. Fellow board members can be nervous of disruption and reluctant to change. Our research shows that are several barriers to adopting good trustee recruitment, including fear and lack of knowledge. The Trustee Recruitment Cycle has been designed to offer guidance, tools, reassurance and inspiration from other charities to make it easier for trustees who want to improve how they recruit.
We believe that that good recruitment is inclusive recruitment, so we have woven equality, diversity and inclusion through every step of the process, rather than make it an add-on. The guide challenges boards to invest more time reflecting on who they need, before recruiting, and to consider their board culture at every stage.
How we have developed this guidance
Working with our partners Association of Chairs and Small Charities Coalition, Reach Volunteering carried out design-led research into how boards recruit, to find out what helped, and what hindered them getting the best trustees.
Drawing on the research insights, we developed and tested a prototype resource based on the recruitment cycle. From this, we created design principles and guidelines.
We worked with Getting on Board, authors of the excellent How to recruit trustees for your charity, to develop the content. With the support of Clothworkers Company, we drew on the inspiring examples of the finalists of the Charity Governance Awards, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion category.
This is not the finished product. Our intention is to keep developing and extending the guidance, based on feedback from people using it. Please share your thoughts on what works, what could be improved.
The Trustee Recruitment Cycle is the result of generous support and collaboration of a range of people and organisations, to whom we are very grateful.
- National Lottery Community Fund
- The Clothworkers' Company
- Association of Chairs
- Small Charities Coalition
- Getting on Board
- Leap Confronting Conflict
- Sign Health
- Voluntary Arts
- The Peel
- Ranno Kasemaa (videography)
- Franz Lang (illustration)
- Ciara Napol (user research)
- Damon Rutherford (SEO)
- Lynn Cadman (copy)
- Sarah Macbeth (design/UX/UI)
- Kathy Neal (content design/editing)
- Gemma Sykes (copy)
- Liz Probert (web development)
- Laura Warwick (service design)