WORKSHOP: PERSONAL TRAINER - As a charity we serve lots of people from ethnic minorities, but my board is very much white and middle class. How can I tackle this?

STEPHEN BUBB, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo)

Boards of trustees of charities are accountable for their organisation.

This means that they are not only responsible for the strategic direction of the organisation but are also answerable for its conduct.

You should not recruit ethnic minorities to your board purely on account of their colour. Appointing a trustee on the basis of their ethnicity when they lack the skills to carry out the tasks can be counter-productive. The question you need to ask yourself is "why do I want an ethnic minority as a trustee?

If you want to be representative of the community you serve, there are many ways of involving users in the organisation.

Information is key to this process. There are a variety of mechanisms you could use such as open days or you may already have a newsletter or a web site with a bulletin board.

Once these systems are in place, you can determine the level of involvement for your user group. They can be part of a working group looking at new services or evaluating existing ones. Having paid staff from your user group is another way of being representative of the community you serve.

If the trustees feel after the above processes that the organisation would benefit from having a user on the board, then the chief executive and chair should carry out a skills audit to determine the range of skills needed for the board and draw up person specifications that include experience as a service user.

It is very important that you treat this vacancy as any other full-time paid post and go through a proper recruitment process. A recent Charity Commission report stated that almost all charities relied on word of mouth to recruit trustees. This is not acceptable. You should advertise the position through your networks and if you can afford it in magazines and newspapers. There is also merit in contacting specialist recruitment consultants.

If you want someone from your user group, you can mail it out to all your users. Contact the local council and channel it through their networks.

You could even advertise it through your local church or temple or mosque.

If you have representative local groups, you could consider their leader as an option.

Once you have recruited the right person, ensure that give them proper induction and training. Also clarify your expectations and communicate them to your new trustee.

- Send your questions to: stephen.bubb@haynet.com.

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