Focus: Finance and Governance - Trustee talk - Kerry Rubie, chairman, Friends of the Elderly

The process of recruiting trustees is something we think about a lot at Friends of the Elderly. When we recruit trustees, we ask people to commit to a term of three years. We find this is a very practical length of time because it allows people to really get their teeth into their roles. Trustees can, of course, renew their trusteeships after each term, which they tend to do because they often get really involved with the organisation. I am well into my second term as a trustee.

Before we recruit new trustees, we try to determine what our needs will be so that we can take on the most suitable people. Friends of the Elderly runs residential and nursing homes, so we often need people with a good knowledge of property, for example. We also audit our trustees and give them portfolios that suit their skills.

When we recruit, we also tend to be very specific about the expectations we have of our trustees - and we encourage potential recruits to be very honest about what they expect from us. This averts any misunderstandings about what is involved.

We think training for our trustees is very important. What we usually do is bring in the operational heads from the various areas of the charity to help with this. For example, we are moving into a new area of work involving dementia, so the trustees will have a full-day briefing with the head of the dementia operational unit. The trustees will be briefed on the entire process of running dementia operations.

One of the things we've done in the past six months is a strategic review - this looked at the charity itself, what its aims are and the governance issues that are likely to emerge. It was conducted with the help of a small group of trustees, paid staff and the chief executive. I think it has been a very helpful and informative process.

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