Take your time to get good trustees

Careful preparation will help you find hard-working and effective additions to your board, says Judith Rich

Much is written about the difficulty of obtaining effective trustees. Many organisations embark on recruitment without identifying who will take responsibility for managing it or considering whether there is an appropriate budget for any staff time involved.

Charities' recruitment strategies should include direction about the professional knowledge required. Even so, someone has to write a role description and person specification - and this takes time.

Organisations are increasingly choosing to advertise trustee openings. Who knows who writes the actual copy, but many of these ads make fascinating reading - and not always for the right reasons. It is scarcely surprising that a number of potential candidates are put off before they even apply when they learn about the depth of responsibility involved.

The interviewing or assessment process should also be decided in advance, with identified trustees agreeing to support the chair. It should also be decided whether candidates will be able to meet staff before joining. If a chair is being sought, this whole process is even more detailed. I have a great deal of sympathy for organisations facing this choice, especially with the increasing need to be totally transparent at all times.

Recruitment organisations are always quick to offer their services (for a fee, of course), but many are not experts on charities. Usually, their staff have not served as trustees, so they can find it hard to understand what is required.

An induction and training should be available for all trustees. All potential trustees should be given basic formal information and will need to be given additional papers if they are appointed.

Faced with gaps on their boards, many organisations are grateful for any candidate, and it can be tempting to short-circuit some details. However, considered appointments lead to hard-working and contented boards that will add greatly to the success of charities.

- Judith Rich is the chair of Charity Appointments and a trustee of Relate and Reach

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