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How to recruit trustees for small charities from the private sector

Finding the right trustees can be a challenge for any charity, but for smaller charities with very limited resources, it can prove even harder. Many would like to recruit people from the private sector because of the skills and experience they could bring to the table, but too often end up recruiting from the same old networks, because they don’t know how best to market their trustee roles or widen their recruitment net.

Here’s how smaller charities can tap into the commercial sector and widen their recruitment net for trustee positions this year.


Have a clear vision of the ideal candidate

Conduct an audit of the skills, competencies, knowledge and experience needed for the role and recruit to that brief. Make sure you have a clear vision of what your ideal new trustee will be like and what you expect from them. Think about why someone would be interested in volunteering their services with you. You may be passionate about the charity’s cause, but can you create a compelling proposition about the role? 


Be clear about the decision making process

Be clear about who is making the decision. Is it the existing trustees or the membership (your governing document will usually dictate how trustees are selected)? Have a clear process for informal meetings with the management team and possibly service users, tours of services and interviews. Interviews should be evidence-based to test the candidates’ motivation as well as their skills and experience. Make sure you always take verbal references at the interview stage.


Have a robust recruitment process

Plan the recruitment process properly, scheduling in all activities and making sure those involved in the process are fully briefed. It is crucial to make sure all the trustees are happy with the process even if they are not directly involved in the selection. Recruiting a new trustee can take several weeks so make sure you allow time to do it in a professional matter.


Write a clear role description

Outline the roles and responsibilities of being a trustee and whether you expect the person to sit on any sub-committees. Be clear about the expected time commitment and the location and times of meetings. Remember that many people won’t understand what trusteeship involves and this can be one of the biggest hurdles. Creating a detailed role description for potential candidates can help overcome this.


Prepare a detailed information pack for candidates

This should include links to the memorandum and articles of association, the financial accounts, biographies of your trustees and the governance structure, including sub committees and other useful information such as strategic plans. 


Use your current networks

Tap into your current networks and engage the whole board in the process. Make sure everyone knows there is a trustee vacancy available. However, a word of caution: your existing networks can often result in recruiting in the board’s own image so if possible, extend the search beyond this.


Advertise the role

Write a punchy advert for your website and distribute it via social media. If you produce a newsletter make sure you include the advert. Think about where the people you want to attract would be likely to see your advert – whether it's a local venue, specialist press, a volunteering website or elsewhere.


Widen the search

Be creative and think about other places you could advertise. There are resources available for publicising trustee roles free of charge such as:

  • NCVO’s Trustee Bank (for NCVO members only)
  • Reach Volunteering - the single biggest source of trustees with professional skills in the UK (over 7,000 people registered)
  • CharityJob (you will need to create a recruiter account)
  • Do-it - a national volunteering database
  • NCVO members can also register free with our Step on Board programme that recruits and trains private sector professionals as trustees
  • a further option is to contact the HR department of local businesses and see if you could post something on their intranet or in a staff newsletter. 

Use a specialist recruitment firm

Consider using a professional recruitment firm with a track record of recruiting trustees. They will have a database of executives seeking trustee roles and be able to match candidates to your exact requirements. Some like Trustees Unlimited offer a cost-effective service based on the size of the organisation.


Give your new trustee a full induction

Once you have found your ideal candidate ensure they receive a good induction to help them settle in quickly. This includes clarity about the mission, plans, objectives and minutes of the last few meetings, and importantly, the governing document for the organisation.

Further information

NCVO's guide on trustee recruitment for small organisations has more information on how to recruit trustees, especially for small charities.

Reach Volunteering has a guide to carrying out a skills audit in preparation for trustee recruitment. 

Ian Joseph, CEO of Trustees Unlimited contributed to this how-to guide. Trustees Unlimited is a joint venture recruitment company set up by NCVO, Russam GMS and Bates Wells Braithwaite which discusses how smaller charities should approach recruiting  trustees from a corporate background.


Page last edited Apr 23, 2018 History

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