Evaluate illustration

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

No recruitment process is perfect. Although it's tempting to move on to the next steps, evaluate your trustee recruitment process now while it’s fresh in your mind. You'll be grateful next time you come to recruit.

Review what worked and what didn't, and ask for feedback. Don't worry if you didn't appoint – use the evaluation to consider what, if anything, you need to do differently. This is also a good time to think about succession planning and how to create a pipeline of future trustees.

Back to top

Evaluating your recruitment process

Trustee recruitment won’t ever be a perfect process. You should reflect on what went right and what went wrong and to learn from this. 

Were you clear about what you were looking for?

Skills audit

  • Did your skills audit (see Reflect) accurately reflect the skills, knowledge and experience of your existing board and reveal what you needed from new trustees? If not, why? 
  • Did your charity’s circumstances change during the trustee recruitment process? 
  • If yes, you should do a new skills audit before starting on trustee recruitment again to identify the skills and experience you actually need. 


  • Did your diversity audit (see Reflect) reveal how diverse your current board is and enable you to identify the gaps?
  • Did you attract the diverse candidates you were hoping to? If not, why? 
  • Were you explicit in your advert about who you were looking for? 
  • Did you get someone from your target audience to review your advert to check it was appealing? 

Review your advert, role description and recruitment pack

  • Were they clear about what your charity was looking for and persuasive about why people might want to become a trustee of your charity? 
  • Did they include all the key elements covered in ‘What to include in your advert,’ in Advertise? 

Did you post your advert in the right places?

  • What different recruitment methods did you use? 
  • Were there any that were particularly successful or unsuccessful?
  • Did you post your advert in places where your target audience would see them?
  • Was the format, media, visual appearance and content of your advert appealing and accessible to your target audience?
  • How long was your advert ‘live’ – was this too long, too short or about right?

See Advertise for help with targeting your advertising. 

Ask for feedback

Independent person on the interview panel
If you had someone from outside your charity on the interview panel, ask them for their views on:

  • Your charity
  • Your trustee recruitment process
  • The quality of applications

Also, ask yourselves if it was helpful to have an independent person on the interview panel? 

People who dropped out of the recruitment process

  • Ask people who expressed an interest in the role but didn’t apply why they chose not to apply.
  • Ask people that did apply but dropped out of the recruitment process why they dropped out. 

Successful candidate
Ask the successful candidate for feedback on the trustee recruitment process:

  • What attracted them to the role? 
  • What were the easiest and most difficult parts of the process for them? 
  • Were there any aspects that nearly put them off completing their application? 
  • How helpful was the induction? 
  • How does the trustee role match up in practice to what they were expecting?

Did factors outside the trustee recruitment process affect your success?

  • Are there aspects of the charity’s governance or other specific issues that affected the success of the charity’s trustee recruitment? 
  • If yes, are there ways in which the board could improve its effectiveness or develop its practices to avoid these issues arising in future? 

Reviewing your trustee recruitment cycle as a whole

You can identify strengths and weaknesses in your trustee recruitment process by looking at  the number of candidates at each stage. Look at how many people applied, were shortlisted, were interviewed and appointed. You should consider:

  • Are there any patterns in terms of who made it through and who didn’t make it through each stage? 
  • Are there any patterns in terms of protected characteristics (for example, background, race, gender)? 
  • What proportion of candidates actually met the essential and desirable criteria you were looking for?

Compare your charity’s trustee recruitment process with our Trustee Recruitment Cycle to help spot whether you missed any important steps and to find tips to improve your trustee recruitment process next time. 

  • Were there any missed opportunities or particular strengths or weaknesses in how your charity conducted each stage?
  • How much did the recruitment cost, in terms of both staff/trustee time and money? Has the charity received a good return on investment?

Learning from your evaluation and preparing for next time

  • Draw together the findings from your evaluation to identify what worked well, what worked less well, and what could be done differently next time.
  • Write up your evaluation so you have a clear plan to follow next time.
  • Share a summary of the evaluation with your board.
  • Make sure you save copies of the documents you used in your trustee recruitment so that you can adapt them for next time. 
Were we advertising for a young trustee in a broadsheet when we should have used social media?!
Back to top

If you didn’t appoint

Even with a well-run trustee recruitment campaign, you might not recruit the first time round. Don’t be disheartened. As with paid staff, it’s usually better to appoint no-one than to appoint the wrong person. Although it can seem like a lot of work, it is likely to be less effort than having to manage a trustee that isn’t a good fit for your charity. Your efforts won’t be wasted as they will inform your future trustee recruitment.

Evaluate your recruitment process to see if you can change anything (see Reviewing your trustee recruitment cycle as whole above). Here are some quick tips.

  • Review your applicants again. Are there any people who you didn't shortlist the first time round, but who might have the potential to be good trustees perhaps with some extra support? It might be worth interviewing them at this point.
  • Review your recruitment criteria. Did you create any unnecessary barriers? For example, if other trustees have governance or senior management experience, do you need your new trustees to have this too? Did you ask for a professional qualification that is not essential?
  • Could you re-advertise through different channels and networks? Did you check that your materials were attractive to your target audience?
  • Were your interviews designed and run to give all your candidates a chance to shine?
  • Ask for honest feedback from your applicants. Ask about their experience of your process and the impression they formed of your charity. This is really important if applicants dropped out along the way or your chosen candidates turned you down.


Back to top

Developing a pipeline of trustees

Even when you’re not looking for a new trustee, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for people that have the potential to become trustees one day. Suggest ways that they could develop skills and experience that could help them become trustees on your board in the future. Future trustees could be:

  • Trustee candidates that showed promise but weren’t offered a position when you were recruiting.
  • Current volunteers at your charity.
  • Individuals involved in charity committees that could one day move on to the board.
  • Service users. 

See below how other charities have found ways to develop people so they can become trustees in the future. 

Recruiting trustees from our charity’s programmes

Peter Olawaye, Trustee at Leap Confronting Conflict

The very first point of call for us recruiting people with lived expertise is to recruit directly from our alumni – people who have come through programmes at Leap. We have a good recruitment team and we have a progression routes officer who keeps in touch with the alumni and shares opportunities with them, such as job opportunities or other workshops. Because we have a long term relationship with our alumni, we are able to reach out to them when trustee positions do come up every year or so. It makes our recruitment process and selling the idea of becoming a trustee much easier. 

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

Increasing ethnic diversity

Robin Simpson, chief executive at Voluntary Arts

We recruited a panel of nine volunteers from different BAME communities across the UK to help us work out how we could increase ethnic diversity on our board. The members of the panel worked directly with some of our staff teams around the country, so they could better understand the work of our charity. And the panel met each other several times for dinner followed by meetings the next day where we discussed the issues faced by their artistic communities across the UK. 

When the panel was disbanded after one year, most of the panel members wanted to stay involved in the organisation. Five of the panel members joined the board – one was already a trustee. So our board suddenly became very ethically diverse. What has been very important to our trustee board is:

  • We don’t have a single BAME representative on our board. Our new trustees brought particular skills and expertise and happened to be from different ethnic backgrounds. 
  • Our panelists experience on the BAME panel gave them a chance to get to know the charity before committing to becoming a trustee. 

Read the Voluntary Arts Open Conversations report about developing strong, effective connections to BAME communities. 

Voluntary Arts works to promote and increase active participation in creative cultural activities across the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Back to top

Trustee succession planning

Make trustee recruitment part of your board’s annual work plan so you know in advance when you will need to recruit new trustees. 

Keep a trustee register

Keep a register of trustees with a schedule that shows the following for each trustee:

  • When they were appointed
  • How many terms they’ve served
  • When their current term is due to end. 

This will make you aware of upcoming departures from the board. It is helpful to stagger trustee appointments so you don’t have lots of trustees leaving at the same time.

Set trustee term limits

Trustee term limits clearly spell out how long a trustee term lasts and how many terms a trustee can stay for. You can review whether you want a trustee to stay at the end of each term and they are not allowed to stay beyond the maximum number of terms you allow. The Charity Governance Code recommends that trustees serve a maximum of three terms of three years, or two terms of eight years – a maximum of 9 years. 

The idea of losing a good trustee because of term limits can be nerve wracking. But if a trustee stays for a very long time, will they remain as effective? A strong board benefits from a mix of experienced  trustees and new trustees that bring fresh energy and ideas. Trustee term limits ensure a continued balance between new energy and experience. 

Encouraging trustees to move on

There are a number of reasons why you might want an old trustee to leave, such as:  

  • They have been on the board for a long time and you would like to replace them with someone with more up-to-date knowledge and experience.  
  • Their behaviour does not fit with what the charity expects from its trustees. 

Trustee term limits
It can be hard to ask a trustee to step down. Term limits eliminate this problem and mean that trustees are not appointed on an open ended basis. It also helps to keep your board fresh – see above for more about trustee term limits. 

Code of conduct for trustees
When you have a trustee that isn’t behaving or performing well, it’s helpful to refer to a code of conduct for trustees (see ‘Making the most of your trustees’ above). A code of conduct for trustees sets expectations about how your trustees should behave. If a trustee is not following your code of conduct, you should discuss this with them. 

Individual appraisals
If a trustee is not following your code of conduct for trustees and/or their performance is below what you expect, you can discuss this in an individual appraisal (see ‘Making the most of your trustees’ above). You should first look at how the trustee could improve their performance and if they need to make changes to be in line with your code of conduct. However, if you can’t resolve these problems, you should talk to your trustee about when they should move on from your board. You could support the trustee to identify new interests or opportunities outside your charity or suggest other ways this person can remain involved with your charity. 

How to adjust when a trustee leaves

  • The departing trustee should do a thorough handover with the chair and/or CEO outlining key information about their work as a trustee. 
  • If a trustee is leaving before the end of their term, get them to explain to someone they are comfortable talking to why they have decided to leave. 
  • Get feedback from the departing trustee about: 
    • What they’ve learnt from their role
    • What they’ve particularly enjoyed
    • How they think your charity’s governance could develop
    • Suggestions about what the board may need from a new trustee. 
  • Look for ways that this trustee can remain involved with you charity even though they are no longer going to be a board member – possibly as a volunteer or as a member of a charity committee. 
  • Use a skills audit and a diversity audit (see the Reflect section) to work out the future skills, experience and personal qualities the board will need when this trustee leaves. Don’t just recruit someone who seems similar to the trustee who is leaving.

Planning ahead for new board members

Peter Olawaye, Trustee at Leap Confronting Conflict

We recently recruited a new treasurer, but we knew the old treasurer was leaving a good two years ago. So we spent three months recruiting our new treasurer. And now our new treasurer is spending eight to twelve months shadowing our old treasurer. There have been times when we haven't been as good as this. But we've done well, even with our new chair that we we recruited two years ago. It’s good to have a succession plan – think ahead about the next two to three. 

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

How long should a trustee stay on the board?

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.

Next in the cycle

Identify the mix of skills and experience your board needs to lead your charity.
Back to top

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