Let’s talk about trustees, board diversity and succession planning

During Trustees’ Week two years ago, I shared some data and thoughts about the diversity of trustee boards. Back then, the picture revealed that trustee boards didn’t reflect society in all of its diversity; just 0.5% of trustees were aged between 18 and 24 and two-thirds were over 50.

My feelings then were that charities could do more to make trusteeship appealing and accessible, by thinking about the barriers to becoming trustees and actively trying to reduce them, by being clear on what the role involved and what the charity is all about, by considering what gaps are on the board of trustees, by offering training, induction and mentoring.

And now? Having spent two more years supporting charities, my feelings are much the same, something which may be borne out by updated research findings released yesterday. The research commissioned by the Office for Civil Society and the Charity Commission makes these key findings:

  • Men outnumber women trustees on boards by two to one
  • The vast majority (92%) of trustees are white, older and above average income and education
  • 71% of charity chairs are men and 68% of charity treasurers are men
  • The average age of trustees is 55-64 years; over half (51%) are retired
  • 75% of trustees have household incomes above the national median
  • 60% of trustees have a professional qualification; 30% have post-graduate qualifications
  • 71% of trustees are recruited through an informal process
  • In 80% of charities trustees play both a governance role and an executive role – they have no staff or volunteers from whom they can seek support
  • 70% of trustees are involved in charities with an income of less than £100k a year
  • Trustees report lacking relevant legal, digital, fundraising, marketing and campaigning skills at board level
  • Trustees are concerned about their skills in dealing with fraud and external cyber-attack
  • Trustees seek support and advice from one another – 80% of all respondents regard this as their most important internal source of advice and support, with only 6% seeking guidance or training from an external provider
  • On average, trustees donate almost 5 hours a week to their trustee roles

It should be said that according to the Charity Commission, “researchers surveyed a sample of 19,064 trustees, via a national survey in January 2017. Around 3,500 trustees responded to the survey.”

I’d like to know more about what the research findings mean by ‘an informal process’ that accounts for 71% of trustees recruited. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making a process more informal to reduce barriers (as long as constitutional requirements are followed), but if by ‘an informal process’ the research means ‘word of mouth’ or ‘asking around networks’ then that might account for a lack of diversity on trustee boards. In my experience (and in the experience of others), the majority of trustee recruitment is done by asking people personally. It’s understandable; trustees get a sense of someone’s skills and quickly see how they could add great value to their board. But this can have its drawbacks and make boards less diverse than they can be. Charities risk casting their net too narrowly, in a pool in which people are already in demand or already giving time to other charities; trustees may only ask people like them to become trustees. The risk here is that no-one asks the obvious questions, no-one brings different perspectives, no-one asks more difficult questions. Diverse boards make the best decisions.

Diverse boards make the best decisions and it isn’t surprising that the updated Code of Governance makes diversity a principal in its own right. On top of that, board composition, recruitment and skills are integral to principal 5 of the Code of Governance, ‘Board effectiveness‘. I’ve worked with many charities on trustee recruitment and the most successful ones are those that recruit through a planned process. Many have approached us desperate for trustees because a current trustee (or, more often than not, a whole group of trustees) will retire. Sometimes, it feels that the need to recruit trustees has been identified too late (and that’s when a planned process goes out of the window and people ask anyone who might be willing out of sheer desperation). Think about how unappealing it would be to be asked to become a trustee because the current trustees want to resign! This doesn’t give time to help new trustees to understand their roles and settle in and it could be very destabilising.

What I’m talking about is succession planning, an important though sometimes overlooked task of a board. It’s about striking a balance between continuity and fresh ideas and perspectives, . Here are some steps I’m currently taking some charities through:

1. Consider what barriers there are to people becoming trustees 

Knowing the barriers mean you can then work to reduce them!

 

2.  Follow your governing document and the law

Who is eligible to be a trustee? What is the minimum and maximum number of trustees you should have? How are trustees appointed?

 

3. Make sure your trustees are ready for new trustees

Understand what skills you currently have and think about what skills you need. Think about how you will welcome, train and induct a new trustee. Make sure current trustees are open to new ideas and input (the charity doesn’t belong to any one person)

 

4. Draw up role descriptions and person specifications

You should have a clear picture of what you want from a trustee and people should know what’s expected of them

 

5. Develop a way people can apply to become a trustee

What information should they receive? What processes will you use? Application? Interview? Invitation to a meeting? Who should they contact? How will they be welcomed? How will you train them? How will they be appointed?

 

6.  Target people and promote your vacancy 

If you’re looking for people with specific skills, think about: Where they might work;  What publications / websites they might read; How you will target them. Promote your vacancy as widely as possible, not just in your own networks.

 

7. Consider how you will welcome and induct new trustees 

Think about how to make any new trustees feel welcome. For instance, introduce them to trustees and staff, consider buddying, provide documents, plans and ongoing training and support.

And for Trustees’ Week, I wanted to share some useful resources and stories that others have shared which might be helpful for you:

Finally, I’m happy to support any Dudley borough charity that wants to think about succession planning, board diversity and recruitment and to work with trustees to improve their skills. Equally, if anyone is interested in becoming a trustee, I’d love to have a chat and link you up with charities that do wonderful work. As well as running regular drop ins with Eileen on the first Wednesday of each month, I’d like to know from you whether there is any appetite for specific events and activities around aspects of trusteeship. This might be a regular network of trustees, training and other support I might not have thought of! Feel free to let me know what might work for you and your trustees.

How can we improve the diversity of trustee boards?

 

The Trustees’ Week website has lots of useful information about becoming a trustee, recruiting trustees and topics related to running a charity.

Amongst its posts is one piece about trustee facts and figures, which says:

  • There are over 1,000,000 trustee positions in England and Wales;
  • Estimates suggest that almost half of charities have at least one vacancy on their board;
  • Just 0.5% of trustees in England and Wales are aged between 18 and 24, (compared with 12% of the population as a whole);
  • The average age of trustees in England and Wales is 57, two thirds are aged 50 and over.
  • 43.4% of trustees are female, and 56% are male(Each trustee is counted only once, though some are trustees for more than one charity. The figure for female trustees should be treated as a minimum as only those whose titles are certainly female are included).

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Spotlight on Dudley CVS Trustee, Alison Sayer.

Earlier this year, (July 2015) I had the pleasure of interviewingAlison 04 cropped Alison Sayer, Chief Executive Officer of Halas Homes in Halesowen (www.halashomes.co.uk), for an article in the Dudley CVS Echo newsletter. Alison has been a Dudley CVS Board member since 2013, bringing with her a particular expertise in Human Resources and seemingly boundless energy.

I asked Alison to tell more about Halas Homes, which is akin to lighting the blue touch paper on a firework. “Halas Homes has been caring for people with learning difficulties for over 50 years. Today, it is a 24/7 residential care home for up to 36 adults with learning difficulties,” replied Alison, adding, “the adjacent day centre is open to residents and non-residents and hosts a wide variety of daily activities to aid health and wellbeing. There are also five ‘supported living’ homes for people with a degree of independence,” and by the way, “Halas Homes won a top award last year, picking up the Creative Arts Award in the national 3rd Sector Care Awards 2014. The award was presented by TV personality and campaigner, Esther Rantzen.”

Coming from a background in hospitality, Alison refers to the residents and the people who use the day centre as ‘customers.’  “It’s really important to find out as much as possible about our customers so that we can design services and activities that provide the best possible outcomes for them,” she said.

While Alison is clearly passionate about the work of Halas Homes, she is not so keen to be in the spotlight, preferring instead to conduct a guided tour of the Halas Homes premises and let some of the residents, members of staff and volunteers do the talking.

In the kitchen, we met Ken, who has been a Halas Homes resident for 39 years. While drying dishes, Ken spoke about how much he had enjoyed installing bird boxes in Halesowen earlier this year as part of Halesowen in Bloom. In the day centre, volunteer Glynis  Miles was leading an activity called Sing and Sign. The singing part was a boisterous rendition of “I never promised you a rose garden.”  The signing part involved two teams of residents and visitors taking part in a highly animated and competitive version of charades.

Outside, the allotment site was awash with produce ready to be picked and prepared in the on-site kitchen.  Also outside, Mark Stevens, an ‘invaluable’ Halas Homes volunteer for over four years, was busy cleaning one of the small mini-buses. “I started out as a volunteer here at Halas Homes, then I became a part-time employee, but I still do voluntary time as well because I like to help out in any way I can, such as running errands to pick up prescriptions. But most of all I enjoy helping with activities for our customers,” said Mark.

Alison also walked me the Coffee Cups Café in nearby Thornhill Road, where volunteer helper, Suzy Bury, had been preparing vegetable soup, something she was clearly very proud of. The café, which was acquired by Halas Homes in 2012, plays host to nearly 300 customers each week, providing home-made fayre at cost plus a small profit margin.

So, an interview with Alison Sayer that was supposed to last one hour extended to over three hours and I enjoyed every minute of it. Never once did Alison say “I did” it was always, ”we did.”

Tom Keys; Dudley CVS Trustee

Dudley CVS Board Member, Tom Keys, is a busy man. To be more accurate, Tom Keys is a very, very busy man.

Despite approaching his 75th birthday on New Year’s Day next year, Tom’s diary is full of things-to-do; and most of those things-to-do are of a volunteering nature.

Tom’s current list of volunteering memberships runs to thirteen organisations spread across a wide variety of causes, including sports clubs, faith groups, health and wellbeing support groups and Neighbourhood Watch.

Tom Keys was born in Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1941. As a youth he joined the local Boys Brigade, rising to Battalion Colour Sargent. He also served as a volunteer Special Constable, which proved to be the catalyst for some five decades of volunteering to follow. His claim to fame in Northern Ireland is that he was personally blessed by the Bishop of Derry.

Tom left Northern Ireland in 1960, but his soft Irish brogue has never left him. He came to live in Kingswinford, working at Birmingham Sound Reproducers (BSR), which at the time was the largest manufacturer of record turntables in the world. Tom developed a passion for winemaking and beer brewing and became a local authority on home brewing.

Tom Keys gathers Elderberries for another batch of home-made wine.

Tom Keys gathers Elderberries for another batch of home-made wine.

For four years he was President of the Midland Region of Amateur Winemakers Federation. Tom qualified as a Wine Judge in 1984 and appeared in a Channel 4 wine programme in 2012.

It was following a talk about the secrets of winemaking Tom gave to the Dudley branch of Parkinson’s UK in 1999, that he was invited to become its President; an invitation he accepted gladly, especially as his Mother was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. He is still President of the Dudley branch of Parkinson’s UK today.

From 1999 to the present day, Tom has devoted thousands of volunteer hours to all sorts of local groups and organisations, joining the Dudley CVS Board in 2008. When asked what qualities Tom brings to the Board, he said he likes to think he takes nothing at face value, questioning and probing where necessary, but always to “ensure Dudley CVS continues to go from strength to strength towards achieving its objectives.”

Tom served as a Justice of the Peace on the Dudley Bench for 9 years. Tom remains passionate about home-brewing and makes about 240 bottles of wine from local fruit and vegetables each year. His other passion is crown green bowling, a pastime he took up four years ago after giving up playing golf (Tom, is a former Captain of Wrottesley Golf Club 2006/7). Tom is currently Chairman of Stourbridge Sons of Rest, vice-captain of the Mary Stevens Bowling Club B Team.

A third passion of Tom’s is photography. For the last dozen years or so he has given fundraising photography and video presentations of places he has visited with his wife, Patricia. The next DVD show is 30th October at the Wesley Chapel, in Mount Pleasant at 6.00pm. For more information e-mail: tomkeys@blueyonder.co.uk.

 

Join us during Trustees Week

Leading community organisations

“Trustees are the people in charge of a charity. They play a vital role, volunteering their time and working together to make important decisions about the charity’s work. Trustees’ Week is an annual event to showcase the great work that trustees do and highlight opportunities for people from all walks of life to get involved and make a difference.”

From the Trustees’ Week website

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Supporting leaders all year round!

Trustee flyer

“Trustees are the people in charge of a charity. They play a vital role, volunteering their time and working together to make important decisions about the charity’s work. Trustees’ Week is an annual event to showcase the great work that trustees do and highlight opportunities for people from all walks of life to get involved and make a difference.”

From the Trustees’ Week website

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