‘How to Encourage More People to Join Boards’ – Discussion at Trustee Week 2015 Conference Dundee

Tomorrow I shall be leading four table discussions on the topic of ‘How to Encourage More People to Join Boards’ at the Trustee Week Conference in Dundee.  Here are my notes and discussion questions.

I would value any comments that you may have. 

Aim of Discussion

To identify ways in which Trusteeship can be encouraged and how we can build relationships and networks to support the development of trustees in Scotland.

 

The Challenge: Encouraging more people to join boards

Trustees play a vital contribution to society across approximately 45,000 Voluntary Sector Organisations in Scotland (SCVO, 2010).  However, many third sector organisations find it difficult to recruit trustees and often rely on word-of-mouth to fill appointments.  In Edinburgh alone, the Volunteer Centre reports an estimated 90% of board-level vacancies, across 1800 Voluntary sector organisations.  Nevertheless, Scotland is not short of volunteers, with 1.2m adults (28% of Scotland’s population) undertaking volunteering activity each year.  Trusteeship is one form of volunteering that provides a unique experience to gain valuable skills at a strategic level and a great way to ‘grow’ and ‘give back’.  The Charity Commission report low levels of awareness amongst the public that a trusteeship can be regarded as a volunteering opportunity – less than 5% of people are aware that trusteeship can be a way to support a charity (Tomorrow’s World Telephone Omnibus Survey, 2006). There are also perception issues around the amount of time required to fulfil a trustee position, concerns with potential liabilities and interestingly some individuals believe they lack the necessary skills (DCLG, September 2008). Key to unlocking this is to promote the benefits of Trusteeship and to develop new and existing networks (i.e. existing volunteers, local interfaces, umbrella organisations, support groups) to communicate this message to inspire others.

 

Discussion 1. How can we encourage more people to consider being a Trustee?

Ensuring an effective board: Fit, skillsets and promoting diversity

 

Board’s to be effective need the right mix of skills, knowledge, backgrounds and experiences and perspectives to govern well, as well as embodying diversity in its widest sense (The NCVO Good Governance Guide, 2010).

 

At the 2013 Trustee Week Dundee Conference, there was a lot of discussion around ensuring the right ‘fit’ between the prospective trustee, board and the vision and values of the organisation.  Firstly, there was consensus that the individual should be passionate about what the organisation does and for some, have volunteered for the organisation in the past.  There was also general support for greater demographic diversity (e.g. age, gender, and ethnicity) on boards.

 

Charity Commission statistics show that (in England and Wales):
  • Average age of a trustee in the UK is 57, with 67% aged over 60.
Only 0.5% of the trustee population are aged 18 – 24 yet this equates for 12% of the total population.
  • Tends to be a 50:50 split between men & women in smaller organisations, but this shifts to 67:33 in larger charities (NCVO, 2012)
  • 9% of total board members were from ethnic minorities

 

Mackinnon (2014) notes that policy-makers and funders expect to see various groups represented yet be highly proficient at strategic planning, finance, employment etc., and also hold high levels of competence with the regulatory requirements that the voluntary sector and charities face.

 

Discussion 2: How can boards ensure the diversity of board members to reflect key stakeholder groups and the skillset required to govern effectively?

 

Recruiting trustees: Sources, network and support

Please see ‘Recruiting trustees – cast a wide net and take the long-term view’ provided by Ilse MacKinnon at the ‘Putting Trust in Trustees’ SCVO conference in Edinburgh (November, 2014).  As well as recruitment websites and local press; one source could include encouraging individuals who already have volunteered and may wish to take the next step.  Secondly, boards could actively seek local professionals with specific skillsets and functional knowledge (e.g. by contacting an accountant on LinkedIn who lives local).  Students are also great potential trustees as they are eager to grow, practice what they learn and ‘give back’; if not today but certainly could be the trustees of the future!

 

Discussion 3: How can third sector organisations build relationships to encourage existing volunteers, local professionals, and University and College students to join their boards? What training requirements might each group need?

 

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