Trustee Troubleshooting: Recruiting Trustees During the Health Crisis
14 April 2020 | By Frances Campbell
For many charities, last month’s key priorities included hiring a new Trustee, Chair or Treasurer to their Board. However, given the fast changing situation as a result of the health crisis, it is fair to say many organisations priorities will have rapidly shifted.
For organisations that still need to hire, we ask, how can charities fill Trustee roles at this time, and is that even appropriate?
First off, as a voluntary position vital to the good governance and running of your charity, hiring for new Trustees during the crisis is appropriate and, in some cases, entirely necessary.
Trustees are vital in top level decision making. In a time of crisis they provide essential scrutiny, expertise and experience and a well-equipped Board is an asset to any charity, particularly one in crisis mode. A recent resignation or a strategic decision to expand your Board may have left you with a vacancy to fill, in this case finding a suitable Trustee is essential to the health and future sustainability of your organisation.
Boards need to consider what new technologies and processes may be needed to adapt hiring to suit the new normal. It is possible to conduct the recruitment process through digital technology. This could be new ground for your charity and it is important to test drive any technologies before you begin interviewing - the government have plenty of advice and guidance on this. You can continue to recruit potential Trustees through online channels such as Reach Volunteering, and it will be important to think strategically about how to get the word out through social media and your networks. For further advice, the Pears Foundation has produced this guide.
A potential silver-lining of this process could be an opportunity to create a more inclusive Board.
Many excellent Trustees will benefit from a digital hiring process. It allows candidates outside your geographical area to apply, as well as people that require greater flexibility or have accessibility requirements that you cannot currently meet. Another consideration is whether digital Board meetings could continue after the crisis, which would allow many more candidates to join your Board that may not be able to attend face to face meetings. Do check your governing documents before making these decisions.
From an applicant’s perspective, while some people may be too busy to consider taking up the role, others may find themselves with more time. In communications remember that Trustee positions are excellent career development opportunities for candidates, and becoming a Trustee is a rewarding way to give back to causes that you care about.
A potential draw-back of hiring during the crisis is that, due to immense uncertainty, many people may be able to enthusiastically commit only in the short term. Any charity that is recruiting Trustees still needs candidates to commit to the minimum term length and to be fully present for the required Board meetings and actions in-between. One action to mitigate this is to be transparent in the interview process, making the term, time commitments and what is expected of them clear.
If you decide to withdraw an advert in this time, it is important to communicate clearly with those that have already applied or expressed interest. Should you reopen the advert later you will want truly committed applicants to feel positive about applying again. Thanking them and being as open as possible about your reasons for postponing and when the role will re-open will help to keep potential Trustees engaged.
Whilst there is no precedent set for navigating the current situation, it is important when postponing or hiring a new Trustee that you consider the best way to communicate and manage the process, making the most of digital technology in particular. This is a difficult time for us all and the rapid changes may be hard to manage. Remember that hiring is still possible and could help you to find another excellent addition to your Board.