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Recruiting charity trustees - a practical guide

Written by: Penny Wilson
Published on: 2 Dec 2019

The charity Getting on Board has just launched free guidance for the charity sector: How to Recruit Trustees for your Charity – a Practical Guide. We asked CEO, Penny Wilson, what prompted the guidance and how it could help to change the way charity leaders are recruited.


Getting on Board’s research shows that there are great benefits to being a trustee:

  • 96% say they’ve learnt new skills,
  • 22% got a promotion as a direct result, and
  • 84% said it made them happier!

Yet there are currently an estimated ​90,000 trustee vacancies​; men outnumber women on trustee boards 2:1; the ​average age of a trustee is 57-62; and trustee boards are less ethnically diverse than FTSE 100 companies​.

Simultaneously, many trustee boards are not representative of the communities they serve, and a meagre ​14% of organisations feel well-equipped​ to meet the compliance, strategic, and development needs facing their charity.  

Is this because there’s a shortage of diverse, potential trustees out there? Or is it because ​90% of charities still recruit their trustees through word of mouth​ and existing networks?


Proving the benefits of an rigorous, open trustee recruitment process

Getting on Board wanted to prove that there is a direct correlation between rigorous, open trustee recruitment and success in finding the skills, knowledge and experience that a charity needs on its board.

We worked with 30 charities over the course of nine months to develop charity trustee recruitment practice, and to innovate and test free and low-cost trustee recruitment methods, such as ICAEW Volunteers.

Our programme, Trustee Recruitment Pathways, demonstrated that open recruitment of trustees does work.  

  • 74% successfully recruited trustees during the programme; 
  • 65% felt their board was more diverse after the programme; and 
  • 85% now feel equipped to deal with the challenges their charity is facing.  


Practical guidance for recruiting new trustees

Our new guidance shares the learning from Trustee Recruitment Pathways, so that other charities have the confidence and means to openly recruit new trustees.  It contains lots of practical tips, example adverts, links to template documents other useful resources and real-life case studies and quotes. 

We provide step-by-step guidance on the 8 stages we’ve identified in recruiting trustees:

  1. Working out what you need on your board
  2. What to include in your advert
  3. Developing your recruitment pack
  4. Targeting your advertising
  5. Converting interest to applications
  6. Shortlisting and interviewing
  7. Actually getting people onto the board
  8. Induction: don’t fall at the final hurdle

Although the guide is primarily aimed at charities, we hope it will also be useful for individuals that are thinking of taking a step into trusteeship. It gives an insight into what a good trustee recruitment process looks like and a steer on what charities are looking for. 

We know from Trustee Recruitment Pathways that finance and business skills continue to be some of the most sought-after professional skills on boards.  Encouraging charities to openly recruit will increase the already broad range of volunteer roles available to ICAEW’s members and others in the accountancy industry – including those advertised on ICAEW Volunteers.


Equipping charities to face the challenges of the future

By giving charities the tools they need to effectively recruit and support trustees, we hope to create a system where charities are robust, and boards are best equipped to face the challenges of today and the future. This guidance is part of our commitment to provide those tools, and to share our learning as widely as we can.

Whether you’re an individual looking for a new voluntary role, a trustee looking for others to join your board, or a professional adviser supporting charity clients, we hope you’ll find the guidance useful and will spread the word about the advantages that open trustee recruitment brings.   

You can access the full guidance at 


Thinking of becoming a charity trustee?

Feel confident you understand your responsibilities and know how to efficiently lead your charity to success with the ICAEW Trustee Training Modules.

Find your perfect trustee role on ICAEW Volunteers