The Golden Rules of Trustee Recruitment

9 July 2020 | By Niloufar Abhari

Recruiting competent, innovative and passionate Trustees is crucial for charities to perform at their best, especially during such extraordinary times as these. How can we do it best?

Trustees are the heart of leadership in charitable organisations. They guide the charity’s course of action and ensure that it stays committed to its original goals and values. Recruiting competent, innovative and passionate Trustees is crucial for charities to perform at their best, especially during such extraordinary times as these. 


Best Practice Recruitment

Research shows that around 90% of charity Trustees are recruited from existing networks, such as friends, family members or colleagues.[1] This means that charity boards often do not represent their organisation’s beneficiaries, with BAME communities, women and young professionals highly underrepresented on charity boards. An open recruitment process helps charities attract more diverse and resourceful Trustees, and allows charities to meet potential candidates more easily. With 90,000 vacant trustee positions reported at a given time, there is clearly a demand to be met[2]

There is no “one size fits all” approach to Trustee recruitment. However, you can start by assessing what skills and experiences might be missing on your current board of Trustees and produce a role specification accordingly.

Broad Skills Auditing is a valuable tool to map out existing skills and experiences on your board of Trustees and identify any gaps. There are great online guides to get you started with the process of auditing your board, the results of which can help outline your recruitment pack. However, skills is only one part of the assessment criteria needed for Boards, a potential Trustee’s energy and time, as well as their cultural fit within the Board are just as important.

Covid-19 has drastically changed the charity sector and charity boards need to fundamentally rethink recruitment processes to adapt to the new normal. New Recruitment practices will need to rely heavily on digital technology, a process that differs significantly from the traditional practice of recruiting Trustees at events or from existing networks. Most candidates will be made aware of the vacancy via job posting platforms and be recruited via online interviews. This necessitates writing an effective trustee vacancy pack, knowing where to advertise the role, and conducting online interviews. 


Composing a Trustee Vacancy Pack 

Putting together a clear and concise Trustee vacancy pack is essential and there are plenty of online templates to help you. A good pack should include: 

  • Details about your organisation and its mission to highlight what your purpose is as a charity;
  • A description of a Trustees role and responsibilities, both in general and in the context of your organisation;
  • The type of  experiences and qualities you are looking for; and 
  • An outline of the level of commitment the role requires. 

Advertising the Role 

There are numerous platforms where your vacancies can be advertised, all of which are free and offer useful guidance on how to set up your advert. Some popular choices include: 

There are also platforms for recruiting individuals with specific skills, including: 


Conducting Interviews

Once applications have come through you will need to compare the qualifications and experiences of the applicants with your role specification and select several finalists to interview for the role. 

It is important to make sure that the candidate has a sound understanding of the organisation, its goals and strategic direction, as well what their role involves. It is also essential that Trustees are fully aware of their legal responsibilities. A course such as the Cause4 Trustee Leaders programme can be helpful to give potential Trustees an overview of their legal and financial responsibilities.

It is also important to establish transparency regarding how much time a potential Trustee can dedicate to the charity from the beginning. Being a Trustee fundamentally means being part of a team; make sure to ask about any previous team work experience.  

Pro-tip: Interviews are likely to happen online, so make sure you test your video chat service before the interviews!


How to Encourage Diversity

Most people probably picture a charity Trustee as a middle-aged Caucasian man, towards the end of his professional career, who is financially secure enough to volunteer his time to be a Trustee. This is not far from the truth. A 2017 study by the Charity Commission showed that 92% of Trustees are white, older, and above average income and education level. The average age of Trustees in the UK is 57, with only 2% of board members under 30[3] and only about 6% of all UK charity boards have BAME Trustees[4].

A diverse board of Trustees is essential to successful delivery. Diverse Trustees bring diverse life experiences and expertise to the table which will ensure that the board makes better-rounded decisions and find innovative solutions to challenges. An inclusive charity board also ensures that your charity’s beneficiaries are better represented, inviting a larger mix of talents, qualities and experiences, and increasing public confidence and boosting accountability. Being mindful of potential discrimination, having an open recruitment process and monitoring diversity levels is essential for ensuring the fair and effective representation. 

If you want to hear more about how we can help with Board recruitment, please get in touch with us here


What are your Golden rules for recruiting charity Trustees? Let us know on Twitter @OfficialCause4




Back to top

Blog index

More by posts by Niloufar Abhari

How Trustees can lead recovery

17th August, 2020 | By Niloufar Abhari

There has never been a more important time to be a Trustee and to contribute to the strong leadership that will help the charity sector to navigate this crisis.

Why fundraising isn't a lost cause in 2020

4th August, 2020 | By Niloufar Abhari

Some fundraisers have been put off fundraising by the events of this year. In this blog post, Cause4 argues that fundraising teams should keep going, and offers top tips for seeing success.

The Golden Rules of Trustee Recruitment

9th July, 2020 | By Niloufar Abhari

Recruiting competent, innovative and passionate Trustees is crucial for charities to perform at their best, especially during such extraordinary times as these. How can we do it best?


Let’s get started

Start a conversation that matters

Talk to us

Take a look at some of our courses

Find out more