Poor practice in trustee recruitment is creating a crisis that is seriously threatening the effectiveness of UK charities, according to a new report.
The Looming Crisis in Charity Trustee Recruitment, published today by Getting on Board, a charity that helps people to become charity trustees, says the vast majority of charities recruit most of their trustees through word of mouth and almost half do not even advertise board vacancies on their own websites.
The report, which is based on an online survey of 100 trustees, chairs or senior charity managers carried out in autumn last year, plus a round-table discussion with 15 sector experts in January, says almost three-quarters of charities said they found trustee recruitment difficult.
Despite this, only 15 per cent of charities said they advertised their trustee vacancies in the media and only 54 per cent said they advertised such positions on their own websites, researchers found.
The report says 59 per cent of charities said their boards were not representative of the communities they served, and only 14 per cent said their charities were very well equipped to meet their strategic needs over the next three years.
"Using existing networks to source new board members can be damaging as it means boards hire in their own image and it’s harder to challenge constructively when close associates, friends or even family members are fellow trustees," the report says.
"The benefits of diverse perspectives and experience are well known, and yet 45 per cent of charities reported that they are not doing anything to improve the diversity of their board."
It calls on charities to introduce greater professionalism in their trustee recruitment to tackle the problem.
"A concerted and collaborative effort is needed to improve dysfunctional trustee recruitment practices," it says.
"There can be no doubt that greater professionalism of trustee recruitment would lead to the recruitment of more and diverse trustees. This problem has been identified for some time, and several codes of good practice touch on the issue.
"However, our research seems to show that the situation has not greatly improved. There is now an urgent need to identify new ways of professionalising trustee recruitment."
The report calls on the sector to increase awareness of the role of trustees, develop "pathways to trusteeship" that would help people gain experience of charity leadership and governance before progressing to become trustees, and commit to a strategy to achieve greater diversity on charity boards.
It also calls on the government to ensure that charity regulators require charities to include in their annual reports details of their trustee recruitment practices and board diversity.