Third Sector Excellence Awards: Most Improved Trustee Board

Third Sector, 19 November 2008



Mental health charity Mind cut its board from 24 to 16 members following a governance review, and is reaping the benefits.

For the organisation that has most improved the recruitment, selection, appraisal, tenure, diversity or training of the trustee or non-executive board to improve the governance of the organisation

Judging panel:
Rodney Buse, chair, Charity Trustee Networks
David Carrington, consultant
Penny Chapman, partner and head of charities, Bircham Dyson Bell LLP
Tris Lumley, head of strategy, New Philanthropy Capital

Missing People

Winner: Mind
Mind made bold changes at board level this year after a governance review. Its decision to cut the number of trustees from 24 to 16 drew particular praise from the judges.

"It's incredibly difficult to downsize successfully, and this is a good example that other charities could learn from," said judge Rodney Buse.

Before the review, trustees were re-elected indefinitely and the board struggled to attract new members. The mental health charity said this old model "allowed little consideration for skills sets and diversity" and that the board "was not sufficiently strategic in its approach".

Now members no longer elect the majority of trustees. The new system still allows eight trustees to be elected and the other eight are appointed on the basis of skills and diversity.

It is now compulsory for at least half of the board to have had personal experience of mental distress, which the charity says will boost the participation of its service users. Currently, the figure is about 70 per cent.

Mind also decided to create various sub-committees, including one for Wales, and it says the skills-based criteria for applications to these sub-committees attract a high volume of applicants.
Vacancies on the board and the sub-committees are now advertised more widely on the internet and through internal networks. A stakeholder forum has been created to give stakeholders a greater say in the running of the charity.

The judges said they would have liked to be presented with more evidence of ways in which the changes were communicated to all members of the organisation, but praised the charity's handling of a difficult process, describing it as a "textbook example".

Through its network of 180 local associations, Mind operates crisis helplines, a specialist legal service, supported housing, drop-in centres, counselling, befriending, advocacy and training schemes for people ex-periencing mental distress. It also campaigns for better mental health services.

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