Advertise

When you are clear about the skills and qualities that you want to recruit and you have planned the process, you are ready to advertise. Write a compelling trustee advert that will attract good candidates. Explain why your charity matters, the attributes that you want new trustees to bring, and how these will help the board. Don't forget practical details like how to apply.

Share your advert widely, and use channels that can help you reach the right audience for your role. Trustee recruitment sites can help you find people interested in trustee positions. Use your own networks too, and other peoples', to share your advert more widely and to target your promotion.

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How to write a compelling trustee advert

Your advert should inspire people to join your board. Champion the importance of your charity and describe the qualities that you are looking for in applicants – and why. Many charities just list the duties of a trustee which can sound dry and off-putting. That information belongs in your trustee role description, not in your advert.   

If you are trying to attract candidates from groups which are under-represented on your board, your advert needs to be especially welcoming and inclusive to those groups.

In your trustee advert, you should define the key attributes that you are looking for (see Reflect), and combine this with the information that prospective candidates need to know (see Prepare), in a concise and engaging format. 
 

How does your strategy influence your advert and recruitment?

What to put in your advert

The purpose of your charity and why its work matters

It might be obvious to you what your charity does and why it exists but it won’t necessarily be to others. Summarise what you do, who you support, and why that’s important.

Once you’ve drafted this part of the advert, test it out by asking someone unconnected to your charity to read it and relay back to you what they think your charity is about. 
 

The skills, experience and qualities that you’re looking for and why

A key reason for undertaking an open recruitment campaign is to broaden the diversity of your board. So be clear about the skills, qualities and experience you’re looking for – and whether you expect an individual to have some or all of them. 

You might need to produce different adverts for different types of trustees: most of the advert can be the same but the skills and experience section can be tailored with appropriate language and more detailed information. 

Include the reasons why you are looking for particular skills. This will help people to identify for themselves if they would be suitable for the role.
 
Focus on life skills, not qualifications
When you are describing the skills and experience that you are looking for, focus on attributes rather than a job title or qualifications. For example, do you really need a qualified accountant on the board or are you looking for someone who understands financial planning and accounts? Also, don't include a requirement for qualifications that are not essential, such as a degree. This can be off putting and might result in you excluding brilliant candidates.
 

Say how you want to increase board diversity

If you want to increase board diversity, be explicit in your advert about who you are looking for. But only take this step once you've considered the gaps on your board and how you want to fill them – see the Reflect section for help with this. 

Be inclusive and appeal to your target audience
Are you hoping to attract younger applicants? People with direct experience of the issues your charity addresses? Someone with specific technical skills? If so, you need to write your advert with that audience in mind. 

Demonstrate that you will genuinely value the perspective and contribution of your target applicants and that you will support them to participate on an equal footing. No-one wants to be the 'token representative'. People who have faced systemic inequality will be wary of empty gestures. Reflect your commitment to their participation in your advert, and in other material like your recruitment pack (if you have one) or on your website.

Further reading:

Explain what a trustee is

Most people don't know what a trustee is. Explain it simply, without jargon. Make it clear that first-time trustees are welcome unless you really do require previous governance experience. It’s also helpful to link to resources about becoming a trustee from your, such as: 

Summarise what the role involves and the time commitment

  • Be clear about what the role involves and describe it in a way that will engage and make sense to your target audience. 
  • Remember to highlight what an applicant can gain personally from the experience of being a trustee.  
  • Include that the role is voluntary but that reasonable out-of-pocket expenses will be reimbursed and that ongoing training and support will be provided. 
  • Explain what time commitment you need from trustees, including how often, when and where the board meets. This will help potential candidates work out whether they can fulfil your expectations. 
  • Make sure that the tone and style of the role description is consistent with the rest of your advert.

Where interested candidates can find out more

Some people may apply for the trustee role after reading your advert, but others will want more information before deciding if they want to apply. Signpost in your advert where they can find out more about the trustee role and your charity, such as:

  • A link to a recruitment pack on your website – ideal if your advert is electronic. 
  • A named contact who can have an initial chat with potential candidates or respond to email queries about the role or application process.

How to apply for the role

Let potential candidates know how to apply for the role, and what to expect from the recruitment process. Being open and transparent about your recruitment process will: 

  • Encourage people who are unsure about applying and increase their confidence.  
  • Signals that you will treat all applicants fairly. 
  • Make it clear that you are prepared to adapt the process to be inclusive and allow people with access needs to participate on an equal footing and will give people the confidence to ask for the modifications they need.

Include a closing date – it will give potential candidates more impetus to apply and will avoid you missing out on good candidates because they hadn’t realised you were working to a deadline.  However don’t make those deadlines too tight: trustee recruitment is slower paced than recruitment for paid roles, and you may miss good candidates if you don’t allow sufficient time for people to consider the role and apply. 

What not to include

If your advert is too long, it will lose its impact. It’s better to keep it short and simple and clearly direct potential candidates to sources of further information in case they want to know more.

Things to avoid:

  • Language geared towards people from particular professional or academic backgrounds.
  • Old fashioned or overly formal language
  • Jargon and acronyms that you use within your charity or that are used in specific industries – unless you specifically want to appeal to people that are familiar with them. 
  • Images or terminology that only reflect a narrow section of society – using them will undermine whatever positive messages you include about wanting to recruit a diverse board.
  • Design features or images that don’t match the style and branding of your charity’s website and/or publications. 
  • Stating that previous board experience is required unless this is essential for your board. It will limit the pool of potential applicants unnecessarily. But do highlight if you’re open to applications from those who don’t have previous board experience.
  • That a degree or other specific qualifications are required – unless you’ve got a good justification for requiring this.

Get someone to review your advert

It is easy to write an advert that appeals to people like you but that creates barriers for your target audience that you’re simply not aware of.  Ask someone who is more representative of your target audience to check if there is anything confusing or off-putting in your advert. If you don’t have anyone on your board or staff team that can do this, look to your broader network of service users, committee members, or stakeholders. 

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Targeting your advertising

Carefully choose where you place your advert so that it is seen by the people you want to apply. Where you place your advert is just as important as what it says. Don’t restrict yourself to one way of advertising – choose a range of approaches to increase the chance of attracting the people you want to recruit. And reach beyond your usual network to find new trustees with the skills and experience you need to help your charity to develop.

Where to place your advert

Use the results of your skills and diversity audits/reviews and your thoughts from the Reflect stage to identify where you can reach the people you’re trying to attract. Think about where they spend time and what type of media they look at to help you work out where they will see your advert. Possible places include:

  • Your website and e-newsletter
  • Social media – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
  • Direct emails to specific people and organisations
  • Charity trustee recruitment websites and other jobs boards (more on this below)
  • Posters or flyers in local shops, libraries, supermarkets and community centres – good for reaching people who may not be online.
  • Your local volunteer centre and local community organisations
  • Local newspapers, newsletters, neighbourhood magazines and e-magazines
  • Sector publications and websites

Beyond your network

Recruiting outside your network will allow you to reach a far bigger pool of potential trustees and to target the specific skills and attributes that you are looking for. You can do this on public recruitment sites – there are lots of free and low-cost trustee recruitment services available to help you.

Reach Volunteering provides a trustee recruitment service and is the biggest single source of trustees for the charity sector. It is free to charities with a turnover of under £1m. You can specify the professional skills and experience that you’re looking for and your role will be shared with their online community of prospective trustees and through partners such as LinkedIn. You can also search for and contact available volunteers via the Reach website.

Charities/organisations offering free trustee listings

It’s also worth contacting specialist organisations that might be able to help you find volunteers for particular roles, for example:

  • Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW) has a volunteers website dedicated to people with finance and business skills.
  • The Media Trust helps connect charities with people working in PR and the creative industries.
  • Bar in the Community posts trustee roles that require legal expertise.
  • The Chartered Institute for Personnel Development posts trustee roles looking for HR skills
     

Targeted promotion

You can also reach out to people outside your network and ask them to circulate your advert. You should target people or organisations that are likely to be connected to people with the attributes that you’re looking for, such as lived experience, disability or a particular professional skill. You could reach out to: 

You should also consider posting your advert in publications, on websites or on social media connected to specific professions or groups. 
 

LinkedIn search

Another good way to reach beyond your network is using LinkedIn. If you pay for a short subscription to LinkedIn Premium, you can search beyond your LinkedIn network for people:

  • Who have the attributes you’re looking for in your new trustee. 
  • Who may be able to share your advert with people in their network that have the attributes you’re looking for.

Paid for recruitment services

Paid for recruitment services are not an option for every charity, but if you have the budget this is something to consider. Here are a few, but there are many more:

Your network

Think about how you can use your network creatively to reach people with the skills and experience that you need. If you are looking to increase diversity on your board, think about who you know that is connected to people that are under-represented on your board and ask them to share your trustee advert. For a particular skill, which of your contacts work for companies or are members of professional bodies that may be able to advertise your role?
 

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How to adjust your advert for different formats

There will be different constraints depending on where you advertise, so you will need to adjust your advert to suit different formats. For example, a post on Twitter will be just a few words, but a full-page advert on a community centre notice board can include images and a lot more content. The key is to use the space you have to grab your reader’s attention and signpost them to more information if needed. Whatever format you use:

  • Use language that will resonate with your target audience (which may be industry-specific if you’re seeking particular professional skills).
  • Keep it simple and make each word count.
  • Make it easy to find more information. For example, post your advert and role description on your website so you can link through from social media or job boards.
  • Be consistent with the language and visuals on your website (if applicable) and other publications so that people can recognise your charity if they look for more information.

Tips for different advert formats

Jobs boards and trustee finder websites

On jobs boards and trustee finder websites, there will usually be predefined fields that you need to complete. There will also be filters that can help you target your advertising. 

Things to include:

  • Title – it should stand out from other listings and include a flavour of your charity and the skills or qualities you’re looking for.
  • Summary – this should encapsulate why your charity is amazing and what you’re looking for. It must also be eye-catching so people are inspired to click on it as they scroll through job listings. 
  • Role description – see ‘What to put in your advert’ above for help with this.
  • Person specification – a summary of the skills and other qualities you’re looking for. 
  • Benefits – articulate why this is a great opportunity to make a difference, why it’s important for the charity and explain that it will be a rewarding experience for the trustee.
  • Closing date
  • Application process - where to find more details, download a recruitment pack and instructions for how to apply. 

Twitter and other social media

The great benefit of posting adverts on Twitter and other forms of social media is that they can be shared easily. If your advert is shared widely, it can be seen by a very wide range of people. Reach out to people in your existing networks and ask them to share your social media advert and use hashtags to reach out to specific interest groups. 

Compressing a trustee advert into 280 characters or less for a social media post is a challenge. You should include:

  • An eye-catching title – you could re-use the title from a jobs board post
  • Some of the summary of skills you’re looking for
  • An inspiring image – this will increase the chance of people clicking on and sharing your post
  • A link to further information. 

Newsletters

A newsletter format can give you a lot of freedom but don’t be tempted to go overboard. There is a limit to how much information people want to read. Make newsletter adverts eye-catching and concise and add images or infographics if possible.  

See ‘What to put in your advert’ above for guidance on what to include in your newsletter advert. 
 

Get creative with other formats

An advert can take many different formats and doesn’t have to be based on the written word. Videos, images or infographics can all help draw attention to your role, either as part of your advert or a standalone tool to guide people to your charity.

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Further reading

Next in the cycle

Choose the person who will strengthen your trustee board.
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Trustee Recruitment Cycle

The Trustee Recruitment Cycle helps boards recruit openly, for diversity of skills and experience. Providing information, tools and examples from real charities, we take you through the whole recruitment process.

Reflect > Prepare > Advertise > Shortlist & interview > Appoint & induct > Evaluate