Focus: Finance and Governance - Trustee talk - Anne Fraser - Brainwave

I have served on the board of Brainwave, an international charity that provides programmes of therapy to children with brain injury, for more than nine years.

A few years ago, I was asked to perform a skills audit that looked at the role of trustee recruitment.

This followed a document produced by the Charity Commission that urged charities to consider their optimum board structure.

The same paper emphasised the need for charities of all sizes to broaden their recruitment practices and adopt more transparent methods. It was felt that there was too much reliance on personal recommendation and word of mouth.

Following advice in the document on contacting trustee brokerage services, I approached the NCVO, the NACVS and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators.

I contacted them umpteen times, but got no response from any of them.

I was singularly unimpressed by their failure to respond to my request to find out what they could offer us as a charitable organisation.

It concerns me that you contact these people in good faith and they can't even be bothered to reply - especially as trustees are expected to use our best endeavours to make the most of our charity.

A few years on, I would say we have a very cohesive and balanced board that has largely been recruited by word of mouth and personal recommendation, without any outside help.

We have found that this works well, particularly when an individual approaches us. A personal approach signifies a committed, dedicated individual who wants to do the job.

Our audit showed Brainwave had a well-balanced board with no real skills omissions and no particular dominance in one area.

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