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How Charities Recruit Trustees

According to research led by CASS business school, supported by The Charity Commission, The Department of Culture Media and Sport and several prominent voluntary sector organisations, there are approximately 700,000 trustees overseeing the work of 167,000 charities registered in England and Wales. With significant scrutiny on how charities organise their affairs, the way trustees are recruited is an increasingly important subject.

Why people become trustees –

Almost 60% of respondents to the CASS business school research cited ‘a personal interest in the charity’ as the most significant factor lying behind their recruitment as a trustee whilst just under 50%, said they had previously been, or continued to be, users of the services provided by their charity. Other significant motivating factors included those of a philanthropic nature and the recognition by the charity of the relevant skills that they possessed.

The state of play –

CASS report that almost 80% of trustees said they were recruited through an informal process, for example, an approach by a current chair or member of the Board. A similar scenario exists for both Chair and Treasures of Boards. The Charity Times quote Getting on Board research which suggests that up to 90% of charity trustees are recruited informally. It is therefore clear that the vast majority of trustee recruitment processes are informal. With an over reliance on current trustees for the recruitment of new trustees it is no surprise that charities often struggle to identify diverse and skilled candidates and report trustee recruitment as challenging.

Good practice for trustee recruitment –

The charity commission makes a number of recommendations including: agreeing what skills, experience and knowledge are needed, and composing a person specification based on this. It’s also important to consider the best methods of attracting a diverse range of candidates with the skills the charity needs; short-listing and interviewing against agreed criteria, ensuring a fair and objective approach and, only appointing subject to references, formal vetting and approval by the full trustee board.

Vetting recommendations include: checking candidates have not been disqualified from acting as trustees and asking candidates to consider and declare any existing or potential conflicts of interest. The Charity Times warns against considering quantity over quality; not being honest about time commitments and, haphazard or chaotic recruitment processes.

If you need to support with your trustee recruitment, or are struggling to find the right candidates, please get in touch with our senior associate, Andrei Racasan by emailing: or calling 0207 267 8369