Focus: Finance and Governance - Trustee talk - John Oldham, chairman, Sue Ryder Care

It is vital for the trustees of any charity to have a clear understanding of their governance role, and how they can pursue that role without dabbling in the day-to-day operational management of the charity. Trustees also need to be aware of the external climate in which their charities operate and understand their organisation's strategic direction.

Against this background, four years ago the council of trustees at Sue Ryder Care assessed the backgrounds and balance of skills required within the trustee body to ensure we could deliver on our strategic plan. We already had many of the desirable skills within our ranks, but we also identified some gaps - particularly legal experience, ICT and property expertise.

The recruitment process involved a combination of approaches. In particular, we tried to recruit by word of mouth - a method through which many charities attract trustees. That method has a lot of benefits, but we also wanted to be open about recruitment, so we put an advert in the national press.

We received about 30 enquiries and made some good appointments as a result of this. We also placed adverts in a number of professional organisations' newsletters and researched some especially talented people who we thought might be willing to give time.

The upshot is that we now have a trustee body with skills appropriate to its mission. We have people who are able to focus on the essentials, people who can help modernise our specialist neurological and hospice care services and understand models of care appropriate to our service users. We also have trustees who can concentrate on our long-term finances and people who can support a managerial culture - that is to say, trustees who can help us deliver on strategic change.

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