This free step-by-step online guide to open trustee recruitment has equality, diversity & inclusion embedded throughout. It's recently been launched as a new collaboration between Getting OnBoard, Reach Volunteering, the Association of Chairs and Small Charities Coalition.
They spoke to a range of charities to find out what helps them to recruit good trustees, and what hinders them. They have distilled their experience into six stages below. Don't feel like you've got to follow every step! Pick and choose what is most useful to your charity, for the stage you are at right now. The guide has been developed using a design-led approach, is grounded in research and has been tested with charities at several stages. It's packed with tips, tools & insights, see the full guide here or keep reading below for an overview.
Decide which skills and experience are the most important to lead your charity, and identify which of these are missing from your current board. A skills audit can help. Trustees work collectively, as a team, so the people who will add the most value to your board will be people who can bring new skills and different perspectives, rather than 'more of the same'.
Think about the diversity of your board - which voices and experiences are missing from your board discussions? A diversity audit can reveal characteristics like invisible disabilities and class. Recruiting a diverse board does take extra thought but it will repay that investment by making board discussions richer, and ensuring that your board represents the communities you serve. Consider what might discourage people from joining your board and be open to changing how you operate. Deciding to recruit openly will get you off on the right footing
Decide on your process. How do you want people to apply so that you can shortlist effectively? Who will be involved at each stage of the process, from writing the role description to sitting on the interview panel? Agree key dates and get them in people's diaries
A good process will help you select the right trustees, and it will make the experience more engaging and inclusive for your candidates. Think about what people need to know about the role and your charity, and what will encourage them to apply. A recruitment pack can be a good way of bringing this information together. Outline the responsibilities and commitment of the role in a clear, concise and jargon-free trustee role description. Get someone from your target audience to look over your materials and give you feedback on anything that is confusing or off-putting
Write a compelling trustee advert that will attract great candidates. Explain why your charity's work is vital, the skills and qualities that you are looking for, and why these are important to the board. Communicate with passion and energy. Don't forget practical details like how to apply, and make it easy for people to find out more.
Share your advert widely to attract a good pool of candidates. Use your own networks to encourage people to apply, and ask people to share your role on your behalf. It is important to promote beyond your own networks too, especially if you want to broaden the diversity of your board. Trustee recruitment sites can help you find a range of people interested in trustee positions. Some, like Reach Volunteering, allow you to proactively search for candidates. Identify other places that might help you reach your target audience such as dedicated networks and organisations. Tailor your advert to suit the channel.
Shortlist your candidates against your agreed set of skills and qualities. Don't be swayed by impressive CVs! Look for people who meet your criteria and will bring new and different perspectives to your existing board, rather than 'more of the same'.
Plan your interview process so it goes smoothly. Ask structured questions to assess applicants' interest in your organisation, their fit with your charity's values and to explore how they could use their skills and experience to help board discussions. Use marking criteria to choose the best candidates and to make the process fair. It also makes it easier to turn down unsuccessful candidates and give them constructive feedback.
Interviews are a two-way street: applicants will want to find out more about your charity, the other trustees and your board culture. Give them opportunities to do this, and make the interview a positive experience for them – it will help you secure the right trustees.
When you've chosen your new trustee, check their eligibility and confirm their appointment. There are a few administrative tasks to do at this stage. Then give your new board member 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. Share relevant information on your charity and how your board operates, and help them get to know the other trustees and team members.
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 and give them a board 'buddy'. Consider wider aspects like board culture: 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 Chair has an important role to play in building an inclusive culture.
No recruitment process is perfect. Although it's tempting to move on to 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. If you didn't manage to appoint this time round, it might be worth taking a second look at your shortlist, and it is certainly worth evaluating each stage of the process to see what you can change for next time.
This is also a good time to think about succession planning, term limits and how to create a pipeline of future trustees.