How to complete a skills audit

Strong boards have trustees with a mix of professional skills, personal experience and different perspectives. The ideal combination depends on your charity's purpose and strategy. You can read more about this in 'What makes a good board?'. 

A skills audit can help you:

  • Understand your board’s current mix of skills and experience.
  • Identify the gaps in your board and highlight the skills you need to prioritise for your next trustee recruitment. 

The audit can also be useful for succession planning and preparing for the future: it can show how you may be affected if a trustee leaves, or your charity faces new challenges.

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When to do a skills audit

Boards often do a skills audit before they recruit trustees. However, it can be helpful to complete the exercise every year because it prompts trustees to reflect on how their personal expertise has developed and new areas of interest they want to explore. The board can respond more quickly and easily when the need to recruit trustees arises – and a skills audit can flag if a new trustee would add value even if recruitment isn’t on the radar. 

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Completing a skills audit: step by step

Copy our online template or download our Excel template, and follow the instructions below.

You can complete this exercise in a single board meeting, or undertake it in stages. 

  1. Identify core skills and experience needed
    We have listed some generic skills that boards need. These will vary according to the size of the charity, so feel free to edit them. You will also need to add those that are specific to your charity:

    •    Knowledge or experience that is specific to your charity’s cause; for example, childcare, medical, housing.
    •    Lived experience of your charity’s cause or issues that affect your service users.

    Alternatively, you can use our simple skills audit template and start with a blank page rather than a predefined list of skills. 

  2. Identify the challenges and opportunities facing your charity 
    As a board, agree what key challenges and opportunities the charity is facing in the next 3-5 years. Draw on your strategy, operational factors (for example, the need to move premises), and external factors such as government policy or climate change.  
  3. Agree what you need from your board for the future
    Highlight the skills and experience you will need on your board to navigate your specific challenges and opportunities. Add to your list of skills and experience if they aren’t already included in your skills audit.   
  4. Assess the skills and experience your board has 
    Ask your existing trustees to fill in the skills audit with their skills, knowledge and experience. We have suggested the following scoring system:

    3 = Significant experience and expertise.
    2 = Some knowledge or experience.
    1 = Interested in learning more.
    0 = No knowledge or experience.

    Some groups typically underestimate their expertise, and others can be more generous to themselves. It can help to explain in greater detail how people should score themselves. 

    You could complete the assessment:
    •    by trustees individually completing a printed or online skills audit.   
    •    by the Chair as part of a 1:1 discussion with each trustee. 
    •    as part of a board meeting either as a whole board or in smaller groups.

    Collate the results and discuss them with the board. Do the results accurately reflect the expertise and skills of the board as a whole? If you’re using our simple skills audit you could just list the skills, knowledge and experience of existing trustees, or decide to add some scoring.

  5. Identify the gaps
    What are the gaps between your current board and what you need for the future? Will this change because of existing trustees standing down? Prioritise the list of gaps based on the charity’s challenges and opportunities. It is helpful to record why you need specific skills and experience. Avoid referring to specific job titles so that you don't inadvertently exclude people with relevant skills. 


  6. Think about other types of diversity
    Good trustee recruitment is about recruiting a diverse board. As well as thinking about the range of professional expertise you need, you also want to consider your trustees’ diversity of experience, of economic, social, geographical background, and protected characteristics. Does your board reflect your service users and community, and their lived experience? Read more about why board diversity is important and how to make your board more diverse. We also have guidance on how to carry out a diversity audit including a free online template for you to use.    
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Using your skills audit

Your skills audit will show you what skills and experience you need on the board, what you currently have, and where there are gaps. Combine these findings with your analysis of your diversity gaps and agree the range of skills, experience and characteristics you want to prioritise for your recruitment. Use this to focus your role description and advert, so that you target people with the skills and characteristics that you need. It will also help you to decide how many new trustees you should be looking for, as you might need more than one person to bring in the skills sets and experience you’re missing. The skills, knowledge and experience you’re missing go into your ‘person specification’ for new trustees.

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Skills audit templates

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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