Appoint and induct

Carry out relevant eligibility checks on your new trustee and confirm their appointment. Then give them an induction that will help them thrive in their new role. Boards vary in how they operate so a good induction is useful, even if they have been a trustee before.

Different people will have different needs, so tailor your induction to suit the individual. All board members share the same responsibility so they must all be able to participate on an equal footing. Find out what training and support your new trustees need to carry out their role well. The way your board currently operates might not work for your new trustees. Be willing to make changes to accommodate them and set them up for success.

The support I got when I started really helped me. I was able to talk to the team about what being a trustee actually means, which was really good for easing me in and easing some of my worries.
Leap Confronting Conflict
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Before you appoint

There are some essential steps you must follow before you can appoint your new trustee.

Understanding the responsibilities of being a trustee

You will have covered this in your trustee role description and in your interview but, at this stage, it is important that you make sure that the person you want to appoint fully understands the responsibilities they’re taking on as a trustee. See the Getting on Board guide – What is a Trustee? 

Make eligibility checks and collect references

Check your charity’s trustee recruitment rules

Check that they meet the specific criteria for trustees set out in your charity’s governing document. This could include: 

  • Trustees must be over 18.
  • All trustees must be a member of the charity.
  • Trustees need to be elected by the AGM.
  • Trustees must be appointed at a board meeting.
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Appointing your new trustee

Once all your eligibility checks are complete, you can appoint your new trustee, following the rules set out in your charity’s governing document. 

Letter confirming trustee appointment

The chair of the board should confirm the new trustee’s appointment in writing. This letter should include:

  • The date of the trustee’s appointment. 
  • The length of the trustee’s term – often 3 years – as set out in your charity’s governing document.
  • Whether a trustee can be reappointed at the end of their term – often trustees can serve a maximum of two or three terms. 
  • If re-appointment is allowed, how trustees can put themselves forward for re-appointment. 
  • How much notice is given for trustees meetings.
  • A list of the information the charity needs from the trustee to update the Register of Charities – see a list of the information that is required.
  • Information about the trustee’s induction

See some sample trustee appointment letters. 
 

Administrative tasks after the appointment

There are a number of administrative tasks that you will need to complete when you appoint your new trustee.

Add your new trustee’s details to the relevant charity commission or regulator:

You will need to add the following details about your trustee:

  • Their title
  • Full name as it appears on their passport or driving licence
  • Any previous names
  • Date of birth
  • Address, telephone number and email address
  • Details of any other trustee roles they have. 
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Give your new trustee a good induction

Make trusteeship of your charity a good experience from the start with an induction that makes your trustee feel valued and welcome. Give your trustee the information, help and support that they need to be able to perform well and develop as a trustee on your board. If you’ve appointed more than one new trustee, it can be helpful to run their inductions at the same time, so they can share the experience of settling in together. 

A well-thought out induction:

  • Helps news trustees get up to speed quickly.
  • Provides trustees with the tools they need to thrive in their new role. 
  • Builds trust between new and existing trustees.
  • Shows that you are serious about the important contribution your new trustee has to make.
As volunteers, trustees need to feel valued – so think very carefully about how best to use the skills and perspectives that they bring.
ActionAid

Charity insights on trustee induction

Invest time in preparing for your new trustee

Girish Menon, former chief executive, ActionAid UK

ActionAid puts the rights of women and girls at the heart of what they do. They have three main areas of work: violence against women and girls, women’s economic empowerment, women’s and girls’ rights in humanitarian crises.

A clear induction plan

Girish Menon, former chief executive, ActionAid UK

ActionAid puts the rights of women and girls at the heart of what they do. They have three main areas of work: violence against women and girls, women’s economic empowerment, women’s and girls’ rights in humanitarian crises.

Assign a buddy to new trustees

Tom Lawson, CEO at Leap Confronting Conflict from 2010 – 2019 

We set up a buddy system to help new young trustees settle in and learn how to fulfil their role on the board. It worked so well, that we gave all new trustees a buddy when they started.

Assign a buddy
When a new trustee starts we assigned them a buddy who was a professionally experienced trustee on the board.

New trustee and buddy trustee meet before board meetings 
They met to go through the board papers together and to work out what questions to ask at the next board meeting. Another benefit of this is that both of them ha thoroughly read the board papers ahead of the meeting! 
 

Leap is a national youth charity that provides conflict management programmes and support to young people and the professionals working with them

Tailor your induction to your trustee

Peter Olawaye, Trustee at Leap Confronting Conflict

What diversity means to me - difference. Strengths come with this but also challenges. It’s important to acknowledge this rather than ignore it. As a board you need to put things in place to help overcome those challenges. 

For example, if someone is joining the board from a background of low social capital and low income and is unlikely to know someone with a professional job, you need to think about some of the challenges they may have so that you can support them so that they can become an effective board member. Their induction will need to be different to other board members. Diversity is about understanding that and tailoring your approach to meet that person’s needs.  That is what I have seen on the board at leap and it’s what I experienced when I joined. 

When I joined the board, I was given a buddy and that buddy supported me in understanding how I could: 

  • Prepare for board meetings
  • Contribute during board meetings
  • Be an ambassador for Leap. 

Leap is a national youth charity that provides conflict management programmes and support to young people and the professionals working with them

Supporting a new young trustee with lived expertise

Peter Olawaye, Trustee at Leap Confronting Conflict

I was recruited six years ago as part of a drive to increase diversity on the board. The support I got when I started really helped me. I was able to talk to the team about what being a trustee actually means, which was really good for easing me in and easing some of my worries. 

At the time, I didn’t have much professional experience, which was fine because I was recruited as a young trustee. But I had lots of lived expertise and the team highlighted to me that this was as important as professional experience given the nature of the work that Leap does. 

Before I applied, the team gave me confidence that I wouldn’t be treated as a token young person on the board and that I would be able to contribute fully on the board. 
 

Leap is a national youth charity that provides conflict management programmes and support to young people and the professionals working with them

Getting the balance right

Arvinda Gohil, chair of The Peel.

There’s a fine balance between getting the best out of people and making it onerous. I don’t want to overburden people, but I also want to make sure that they get what they need. Because this is not a one way process. We want people to enjoy that engagement, and feel that they're getting something out of it.

The Peel is a charity that has been making Clerkenwell a more connected community for over a hundred years.

What to include in your induction

An induction won’t happen all at once – it could take up to a year. It should include a mix of documents to read, meetings with key individuals, and visits to some of your charity’s services. Together, these will help new trustees develop their understanding of your charity and give them a chance to ask questions and build relationships. See below for more details about what to include. 

Meet with the chair of trustees

This could be face to face or on the phone. Meeting the chair gives a new trustee the opportunity to: 

  • Ask questions they weren’t able to raise before their appointment. 
  • Share initial thoughts about what they can offer. 

The chair should: 

  • Welcome the new trustee. 
  • Talk through the new trustee’s induction plan. 
  • Outline initial expectations of the new trustee. 
  • Brief the trustee ahead of their first board meeting so the trustee gets an understanding of the context of the topics that will be discussed.
  • Possibly discuss training that could help - particularly if this is their first trustee role. 

Explain your organisation

Give your new trustee the information they need to know about your charity. This could include:

  • Your charity’s history
  • Past work
  • Current priorities and challenges
  • Relevant acronyms
  • Key stakeholders
  • External factors affecting your charity. 

Documents you need to provide

Provide the following documents before the trustee’s first board meeting: 

  • Your charity’s governing document 
  • If papers are online, access to minutes and board papers for the last few years or paper copies from the last few meetings
  • Financial information, such as your trustees annual report and accounts for the last financial year
  • Current strategy
  • Board-approved policies, such as policies for safeguarding and conflicts of interest. 

Provide the following documents, if your charity has them:

  • A description of the roles and responsibilities of all board members 
  • Job description of the CEO 
  • Board terms of reference or code of conduct
  • Business plan
  • Organisation chart including different committees, governance structure and operational/management structure
  • Terms of reference for any committees of the board
  • Scheme of delegation and/or financial thresholds for expenditure.

Meet key staff

Meet staff and volunteers to learn more about your charity’s current priorities and to gain an overall picture of how your charity works

Meet the board

Create an opportunity for new trustees to meet with the full board. This could be part of their first board meeting. Informal social occasions such as a board dinner, or lunch before a meeting are also a good idea.

Meet service users

Giving new trustees a chance to participate in your charity’s activities and meet with service users is very important in helping new trustees to fully grasp your charity’s purpose. It can really help to fire up their enthusiasm for what your charity is trying to achieve.

Practical points to remember about induction

  • Give new trustees access to any board portal or shared drives (and remove former trustees access) so that they can access documents electronically and/or obtain the latest versions of policy and other documents. 
  • Share contact details for key individuals including other trustees and the CEO.
  • Ask new trustees to complete a register of interests. This makes it easier to manage potential or actual conflicts of interest or loyalty. All trustees should be asked to update this annually. 
  • Give your new trustees the name and contact details of the person who oversees the logistics of trustee meetings. 
  • Provide a copy of the expenses policy and claim form.
  • Provide details of upcoming events and important dates, such as board meetings and the AGM – include the date, time and location. 
  • Share information about your trustee indemnity insurance policy, if you have one.
  • Keep all of your trustee recruitment and induction resources in one place so that they’re easily accessible.   

Ongoing guidance, training and support

During your trustee’s induction, identify training that will help them develop the skills they need to flourish as a trustee on your board. You should encourage a culture of learning amongst all your trustees and support them to develop their existing skills and acquire new skills that they need throughout their time on your board. Inducting a new trustee can be a good time to review training and support for all your trustees.

Trustees without experience of senior management or governance might find training and support in charity finance useful. Trustees that haven’t worked with charities would benefit from an introduction to the charity sector and how charities work. 
There are a range of materials, online courses, and events available to support charity trustees and whole boards including: 

Follow up meeting with the chair

After a couple of months, the chair should have a follow up meeting or phone call with the new trustee to discuss how things are going so far. Possible discussion topics include: 

  • How did the new trustee find the trustee recruitment process (see Evaluate)?  
  • Trustee induction – How is it going, what is helpful, what is unhelpful and what could be done to improve induction for future new trustees? 
  • How can the trustee best use their skills to help your charity/board?
  • Initial ideas for how to develop the charity’s governance. 
  • Possible training needs for the new trustee. 
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Make your new board work well for all trustees

All trustees have equal responsibility, so they all need to be able to participate on an equal footing. If your new trustees have different expertise or background to those of your current trustees, the way that your board operates might not work for them. Think about how your new trustees' needs might be different and make changes so that they feel valued and able to contribute effectively. You may find that the changes benefit everyone. Who doesn't want shorter and clearer board papers?

There’s no one way to make your board more inclusive. It could mean practical changes, such as adapting the format or location of your meetings or improving your board papers. It could mean training for trustees in equality, diversity and inclusion. The chair has an important role to play, checking in with the new trustee regularly during the first year, to ask what support they need to participate fully.

Insights from charities on adapting boards to work with new trustees

Prepare your board for a new trustee

Girish Menon, former chief executive, ActionAid UK

ActionAid puts the rights of women and girls at the heart of what they do. They have three main areas of work: violence against women and girls, women’s economic empowerment, women’s and girls’ rights in humanitarian crises.

Make board papers more accessible

Tom Lawson, CEO at Leap Confronting Conflict from 2010 – 2019 

Young trustees and experienced trustees regularly reviewed our board papers and suggested how they could be improved. This benefitted everyone on the board because the quality of the board papers kept going up. Better board papers make better board meeting questions, discussions and decision making, which improves the quality and effectiveness of the work. 

Leap is a national youth charity that provides conflict management programmes and support to young people and the professionals working with them

Improving the way we use our board papers for our majority deaf board

James Watson-O’Neill, chief executive at Sign Health

Every board meeting I've ever been to involves following board papers and a conversation at the same time. If you’re deaf and you use sign language, this is impossible to do because you use your eyes to listen. You can’t read at the same time. 

At Sign Health, there are six deaf people on our board and some of them use sign language, so this really challenges us to work with the board in a different way. I don't think we've reached a perfect solution yet but we do have a discipline in the way that we discuss issues and use board papers. We're trying to use board papers as more of a preparatory tool – something to read before the meeting. And then we use the board meeting to focus more on dialogue and discussion rather than referring to points in papers, which is a very inaccessible way of working for the people who use sign language on our board. 
 

Sign Health – the deaf health charity that works to improve deaf people’s health and well being.

Monitoring male and female

Patti Whaley, former chair of trustees, ActionAid UK

The ActionAid board has pioneered an application that monitors the amount of time men and women speak during board meetings, to avoid male dominance. It also uses a 'gradient of agreement', which allows the board to quickly gain a sense of how members feel about an issue.

Trustees say that simply having an open conversation about feminist leadership has helped the board reflect on who gets to have a say at the top level. This emphasis on mutual respect has resulted in clearer decision-making in which everyone feels heard. Challenging power structures on our board in line with our charity's feminist principles.

You can hear more in Patti's video made for the Charity Governance Awards 2018.

ActionAid puts the rights of women and girls at the heart of what they do. They have three main areas of work: violence against women and girls, women’s economic empowerment, women’s and girls’ rights in humanitarian crises.

Using a board review to adapt

Peter Olawaye, Trustee at Leap Confronting Conflict

We do a board review from time to time and we usually ask a young trustee to do this, which is a great initiation for the trustee. That young trustee will meet with every board member – either over the phone or in  person. They will talk to them about how they think the board is performing and what can be improved. 

As a result of our last review, we changed our board papers to make them shorter. Some of the trustees said that the papers could be a bit complicated, such as the finance papers. So the senior management team asked a number of trustees individually about how the papers could be made more readable, which worked really well.

Another thing we’ve incorporated as a result of feedback from the board is having pre-presentations before our board meetings. These can be about a particular Leap programme and they help keep the board updated about what’s going on on the ground. 

Another outcome from our board reviews is that we have a couple of socials a year.

Leap is a national youth charity that provides conflict management programmes and support to young people and the professionals working with them

Make board meetings a safe space for constructive challenge

Rita Chadha, CEO at the Small Charities Coalition

The Small Charities Coalition provides small charities with information, advice and support to help them deliver what they want and to help make sure their voices are heard.

Chairing meetings and assigning roles

Arvinda Gohil, chair of The Peel.

It’s the way you live equity and inclusion that really matters. How do I conduct meetings as a chair? How do I ask people to contribute, when they might be quiet? How do I actually challenge some of the long standing board members, especially if they are speaking in a way that it patronising to newer board members? Being true to my commitment to equity, as chair, I have to challenge that, so that new trustees aren’t left thinking: 'well, this isn’t really the place for me'. 

It also works well to give new trustees a role, over and above their role in the main board. For example, asking them to chair a subcommittee or getting them involved in a project at an earlier stage. It gives them more scope to engage and it can make a big difference to the way they feel when they walk out of the meeting, with a sense of achievement. 

The Peel is a charity that has been making Clerkenwell a more connected community for over a hundred years.

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Further reading

Next in the cycle

Learn from your trustee recruitment process and lay strong foundations for future recruitment.
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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