How to complete a skills audit

An effective board has trustees with a mix of professional skills, personal experience and different perspectives. The ideal combination will depend on the the charity, its operation and purpose and its future strategy.

A skills audit can identify which skills and qualities your board currently has, and where the gaps are. This will help you to find the right people to lead the charity and guide its future planning. 

A skills audit can help you:

  • Understand your board’s current composition in terms of skills, experience and backgrounds
  • Consider the challenges and opportunities facing your charity
  • Identify the gaps in your current board, which will highlight what you need from new trustees.

As well as identifying any gaps in the board’s overall skills, a skills audit can also help you see how you may be affected if a trustee leaves or your charity faces any new challenges.

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When to do a skills audit

It’s common for a board to do a skills audit before the charity recruits trustees. However, it’s helpful to complete the exercise at least once a year. This enables individual trustees to reflect 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

Download our skills audit template and follow the instructions below. You can complete this exercise in a single board meeting, or undertake it in stages. 

Step 1. Identify core skills and experience needed
There are many generic skills that charity boards need and these are included in our downloadable skills audit template. But you will also need to add those that are specific to your charity. Update the criteria in the skills audit template to include:
•    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
•    Professional or other networks that are relevant to your charity’s activities.
Alternatively, you can use our simple skills audit and start with a blank page rather than a predefined list of skills. 

Step 2. Assess the skills and experience your board already has
Ask your existing trustees to fill in the skills audit with the personal skills, knowledge and experience they have individually. You might want to use this scoring system:
3 = Significant experience and expertise
2 = Some knowledge or experience
1 = Interested in learning more
0 = No knowledge or experience.
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 present them to the board. Have a conversation about whether this accurately reflects 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. 

Step 3. Identify the challenges and opportunities facing the charity
As a board, agree what key challenges and opportunities the charity is facing in the next 3-5 years. This will be informed by the charity’s strategy, operational factors such as the need to move premises, and external influences such as an anticipated change in government policy.  

Step 4. Agree what you need from your board for the future
Highlight the particular skills and experience you will need from the 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.   

Step 5. Identify the gaps between what you already have on the board and what you need
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 that you think could fill the gap otherwise you might inadvertently exclude people with relevant skills. 

Step 6. What about other types of diversity?
Moving beyond the skills your board is looking for, what diversity of experience, of economic, social, geographical background, and protected characteristics would enhance your board? In particular, does your board reflect your service users and community, and their lived experience, or do you need to recruit someone with lived experience of the issues you are seeking to tackle?

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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. Your recruitment is aimed at filling these gaps and will inform what you need to include in your role description and advert, so that you target people with the skills and experience 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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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