Trustee Board Diversity – how diverse is your Trustee Board?

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Trustee Board Diversity – how diverse is your Trustee Board?

1763558_untitled3Fact: there is a noticeable absence of younger people on charity trustee boards.  According to research carried out by the Charity Commission last year, less than 1% of the total number of charity trustees (of registered charities) is under 25 years old.

With the average age of a trustee being 57 years, it begs the question: shouldn’t trustee boards better reflect the diversity of the communities (not just geographical) that they represent?

So, why are young people so under-represented on charity trustee boards? General youthful apathy? Unwelcoming trustee boards putting potential applicants off? A lack of understanding of what the role entails? Most likely a combination of all three.

Our Top-Tips for those charities considering recruiting a younger person to their board:

  • What young people lack in life experiences, can be balanced out with enthusiasm, fresh ideas, new perspectives and the ability to identify new ways of doing things and using technology – harness that enthusiasm and knowledge; play to their strengths.
  • Make an assessment of your current board’s make-up and skills set and identify any gaps that a younger trustee could fill - don’t merely shoe-horn a younger trustee onto a board just to make it more diverse - tokenism and positive discrimination should be avoided.
  • Elevating a younger trustee onto the board may not be the right thing to do from a timing point of view; could an alternative position be created for a younger person to cut his/her teeth in before taking a step up to the board?
  • Assess the effect such a cultural change/shift might have on the current trustee board – manage the process with care and sensitivity, but don’t let anticipated objections divert you from your path.
  • Seek out a ‘role model’ to champion your recruitment drive - identify a young person already performing a trustee role with a charity (it doesn’t have to be a similar charity) and ask them to present to potential younger trustees.
  • Identify those young people who are already involved with your charity (perhaps as volunteers) and moot the trustee question.
  • Contact local colleges or universities where students may already be involved in charity work and who may be receptive to a potential move into a trustee position.
  • Be prepared to invest time and resources in the young person by providing support, mentoring, induction training tailored to a young person’s requirements/needs; invest in honest and informative trustee recruitment materials.
  • Ensure board meetings are held at times that wont exclude a young person (i.e. during work or college hours).
  • Use them; challenge them – don’t waste what could be a really useful resource.

Published: 5 Dec 2011

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