Q: My chairman and I want to increase nominations to our board of trustees this year. How can we achieve this?
A: First, be clear on what you are looking for. Look at any skills gap in the current make-up of the board. Consider future needs on skills and challenges for the board. Consider if co-options can be utilised.
Is your board diverse and representative of the community you serve? Do you have a range of views on the board, including user views and input from outside the sector or specialist area if appropriate?
Once you have a shared and agreed vision for your board membership, you need to be proactive in your search for the right people and to pursue them.
Consult your peer network on their experiences. With the benefit of hindsight, how would they have done it differently?
Do members of your board have suggestions? Some of them may have tackled the same issue previously as a chief executive or board member. Ask them to consider the people they know, and to approach those who would be beneficial to the organisation.
Exhaust your current networks and contacts through the organisation to invite nominations. Are there volunteers or users who would be interested and useful? What about donors or staff in supportive private or public sector organisations?
Consider remuneration for skills that may be particularly hard to find.
A growing number of organisations are remunerating trustees, and a recent Acevo survey has shown that more chairs expect to need to do so in the future.
If you gain significant interest, consider holding an open evening on site for them to meet existing trustees and senior staff, users and volunteers to increase knowledge of the organisation and its work. It also gives you an opportunity to be sure that they are clear on the commitment and responsibilities of being a trustee.
A number of organisations are now advertising for trustees. If all the 'free' networking doesn't work, this is an option worth considering. Look at local newspapers' third sector publications, including organisations' newsletters, and media that is specific to your organisation's area of work. Don't forget relevant websites and email newsletters.
Reflect upon the pitch you are making to potential trustees. Don't forget that first impressions count. The approach and follow-up contact must be timely and professional. Be clear what you are looking for from them and what they will get back in return. Produce job descriptions and supply them with impact reports and financial statements early on. Sell the opportunity to them. The best people will be in demand.
- Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo)
- Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.