The challenge for trustees

 

As the people responsible for governing the strategic direction and overseeing the operational direction of the charity, trustees are vital to a well-run organisation.

 

However, a common story being told about many charities is that the current trustees are an aging bunch who are struggling to recruit any new trustees, let alone those from the younger generation.

 

So what happens if the charity is changing the way it operates, perhaps moving away from reliance on donations and grants to a charity which derives its income from activity based (or dare I say it) more trading based activities?

 

Is it time to recruit new trustees, and from the younger generation?

 

The answer to the first part of the question is, yes.  The board need to ask themselves whether the skills currently within the existing board of trustees, is sufficient for the new ‘trading’ challenges that lie ahead.

 

The answer to the second part of the question is also likely to be yes – but what challenges does this present?

 

The current statistics from the Charities Commission suggests that 18-24 year olds made up just 0.5% of trustees in England and Wales in 2010 and that the average age of a trustee is 57.  Without young people as trustees, charity boards risk lacking diversity and not being representative of beneficiaries.

 

Yet despite this low representation, a new survey carried out by Young Charity Trustees revealed that those young people who are trustees find the experience a very positive one.  Furthermore, the vast majority of young people without board experience would consider becoming a trustee.  So why is it not happening?

 

At a time when the UK faces staggering youth unemployment and underemployment, are charities missing a trick when searching for new trustees?

 

Could charities help younger people become trustees by aiding them with the two most common issues that were holding them back; help potential recruits to understand the role; and advertise, publicise and promote the role and vacancies.

 

How often does the trustee vacancy get filled by someone who is known by one of the current trustees rather than advertised at, say, the local university or elsewhere?  It always looks good on a CV and to potential employers, in addition to the satisfaction and experience derived from carrying out the role itself.

 

Clearly there is much to be done so that boards can become more representative and diverse by recruiting more young people. So the next time you consider looking for new trustees for your board, at least think about alternative strategies to recruit new trustees, and seriously consider helping to lower the average age down from the current age of 57.

 

If you would like more information on this topic, please call 01524 62801.