Charities should avoid word-of-mouth recruitment of trustees where possible and focus on increasing the diversity and skills of their boards, according to guidance issued by the governance institute the ICSA.
In a report on charity trustee recruitment published today, the ICSA says that fewer than 10 per cent of trustee positions are advertised, with many charities relying on approaching people who are already known to the board.
The report says that although this method can lead to the appointment of competent trustees, "it is not necessarily the most appropriate for demonstrating that the charity is impartial and effective in the way it recruits its trustees".
It says: "It has also been shown that word-of-mouth recruitment tends to result in boards that are not very diverse, and this can have an adverse impact on the quality of the board’s decision-making."
The ICSA says in the report that charities that recruit trustees from their membership face a similar problem and can, as a result, fail to attract a diverse range of candidates "with the skills, experiences and expertise the board needs".
But co-opting trustees is supported in the report as an effective way to recruit people with the skills needed for the charity’s medium to long-term success.
The report adds that meetings with potential trustees are important because they provide an opportunity to assess the skills, competence and enthusiasm of the potential board members.
A meeting could also help select trustees who can add to the existing skills and personality of the board and help "wider diversity issues to be broached with an initial assessment of personality, background and experiences that can help engender a diverse approach to decision-making in the boardroom", the report says.
For larger charities, this might best be done through a formal interview panel, the report says.
After recruitment, appointment and induction of trustees, ongoing training, assessment and development are also required for board members, the report says, to ensure that their knowledge is up to date and relevant, and that the board functions effectively.
The report says: "Establishing robust systems for recruiting trustees from a range of backgrounds and communities provides charities with the best possible opportunities to find people with a range of skills and experiences of use to the charity and the activities it offers to support beneficiaries.
"Furthermore, by attracting trustees from the beneficiary groups of the charity, the organisation will strengthen its claim to be serving the needs of the beneficiaries as best it can."
The report can be downloaded here.