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Trustees’ Week, encouraging different perspectives

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Today marks the start of Trustees’ Week, the time of year when we unite to celebrate the vital work of charity trustees.

The charities on our register are hugely diverse – in the aims they have, the work they do and the people they support. But they have one thing in common: they are run by a board of trustees, a group of individuals who take ultimate responsibility for everything that happens in the charity, and who make sure the charity delivers on its purpose and mission.

Almost all trustees volunteer their time for free, doing their important work often on top of already busy lives. They are the life blood of charity in our country, and they are, for the most part, unsung heroes.

Trustees Week is about taking a moment to shine a light on trustees, about saying thank you to the 700,000 people in England and Wales who serve their communities and the causes they care for.

And it’s about encouraging more people to consider what they might be able to offer as a charity trustee, and what they might gain from the experience.

The theme for this year is “encouraging different perspectives”

We want charities to think about the ideas, perspectives, skills and experiences they need on their board in order to thrive and inspire trust.

We know that, taken as a whole, trustees do not reflect the make-up of the communities their charities serve. The average trustee is older to educated to degree level, and men outnumber women by two to one.

Let me be really clear. I have no criticism of, only gratitude towards, every one of these trustees. You do great and important things.

But the current lack of diversity is a problem. First, there is the question of fairness and access. Trusteeship can open doors for people, and young people, people of colour, women, and those from different educational background or regions of the country should have access to that opportunity.

It is also a risk to good governance. Having a diverse group of people on their boards – in terms of background and experience, but also in outlook and personality – helps charities make better decisions. Diverse boards are better able to anticipate and manage risks, seize new opportunities, future proof their organisations and tackle difficult but necessary decisions. Conversely, boards that lack the right mix of skills, experience and perspectives, that do not test and challenge decisions or ideas, are more at risk of ‘groupthink’ and of losing their way.

We would like to see charities do more to attract and welcome new types of trustees to their organisations. One simple step is to always advertise and recruit openly when positions become available. At the moment, too many new trustees are recruited informally, through existing networks, which risks perpetuating a trustee ‘monoculture’.

Trusteeship gives a lot back. As the testimonies that we’ve brought together on the Trustees’ Week website show, trusteeship is a richly rewarding experience. It’s not easy – often its hugely challenging – but it offers an opportunity to make a difference for the cause you care about and it can offer experience of leadership that can be attractive to future employers.

So we are asking you to get involved in Trustees’ Week, whoever you are.

If you know someone who gives of their spare time to serve as a trustee, use this opportunity to say thank you.

If you know someone who would make a great trustee, tag them using the hashtag #TagATrustee and encourage them to find out more about becoming a trustee.

And if you are a trustee yourself consider taking part in one of over 60 free or low-cost events available to book on the Trustees’ Week website. Take the trustee quiz to find out what skills you bring to your board, and encourage your colleagues on your board to do the same, and to discuss the outcomes at your next board meeting. Or use the opportunity to refresh your knowledge on all the trustee essentials in our easy-read 5-minute guides.

Together this week, we can help promote the visibility of trusteeship, encourage new people into the role, and celebrate those who are already involved.

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  1. Comment by Waltraud Elisabeth Pospischil posted on

    Really helpful and inspiring post! Everything in a nutshell as well as providing the links to explore, engage and grow as trustee.
    As trustee of Arkbound Foundation and Ambition Lawrence Weston I will send the information to my board members.

  2. Comment by John Parsons posted on

    The notice given of the webinair meetings is unrealistically and discourteously short - in some cases the meetings start less than 2 hours after issue of your email! This message should have been circulated at least a week ago.

    • Replies to John Parsons>

      Comment by Emma posted on

      Hi John, I'm sorry to hear if this has not been received early enough for you to attend all of the webinars you're interested in. We've been working to promote the schedule of online events to as many people as possible over the last few weeks (including through our partner organisations, our email newsletter, and social media accounts) but understand that unfortunately not everyone will have seen these. I hope you're still able to join events you're interested in later during the week and, if there are any specific webinars you can't attend, it may be worth checking to see if the organisation will be sharing the recordings after the event. Kind regards, Emma

    • Replies to John Parsons>

      Comment by Stephen Pearson posted on

      A very sensible comment. if only the Commission would give as much attention to the appalling delays in responding to correspondence as they do to encouraging diversity!

  3. Comment by John Davey posted on

    I am a trustee for a hospice. Our focus has been on achieving diversity of skills across the trustee board, to ensure that we can pool our knowledge for the benefit of the hospice. We do have representation of ethnic minorities, and half the board are female. But rtere is no point in setting diversity targets based on colour, race, sexual preferences etc if the resulting candidates cannot bring relevant skills to the board. We are a local charity and rightly recruit from the local community. The community may not be typical of the country as a whole, and even if it were we cannot force people to apply for trusteeship roles.

    We have advertised publicly for trustees. Response rates have been appallingly low. So where do we find these trustees with divergent views and relevant skills and imagination and commitment and free time and so on. Younger trustees would be welcome but too few of the potential candidates have the time to be effective once the demands of their careers and young families are taken into account. Succession planning is difficult in the face of public indifference - we have to find competent trustees where we can.