The average age of a charity trustee is 61. Yet diversity improves governance and organisation success . Given that 85% of people under 35 would consider becoming a trustee it is clear that charities should be exploring ways to recruit young people.
What are the benefits of young trustees?
• Contributing a different perspective and fresh insights to board discussions and a healthy challenge to established assumptions and ways of doing things.
• Enthusiasm for learning the role – they are often keen to develop their existing skills whilst helping a charitable cause. This enthusiasm means that they will be more likely to bring energy, creativity and new ideas.
• If your beneficiaries include young people, young trustees can provide useful insight and perspectives on beneficiary needs and experience, and increase the board’s credibility in the eyes of this group.
• Benefits the charity sector as a whole as it helps to engage younger people with sector, developing the next generation of potential charity leaders and supporters.
How to attract them and keep them
Ensure that your advert and role description are written in a way that attracts young people and does not include criteria which excludes them. Consider testing out recruitment materials on young people first. Signal your openness and recruit via multiple channels, beyond your usual networks.
One of the biggest obstacles young trustees face is lack of flexibility with their time, because they are likely to be in employment or education. Be open to adapt to the needs of your trustees by giving plenty of notice prior to board meetings and scheduling meetings for a time which all trustees can make.
It is also important to offer young trustees a good induction process to ensure that they feel supported and valued whilst gaining a deeper understanding of their role.
An existing trustee could take on the role of a mentor to provide for a young trustee. Recruiting more than one young trustee at a time can help them feel less alone. Resources, such as The Young Charity Trustees Guide can also be useful.
Depending on their background and experience, you might need to consider other ways of ensuring that your young trustee can participate on an equal footing with other trustees.
Consider how you can make your board papers more accessible, and your meetings engaging. All trustees will benefit from this. Giving young trustees a specific role or focus area that they can take the lead on can be a good way to empower them.
Chantal Chang, young trustee, Leap Confonting Conflict: “The other trustees are keen to hear what I have to say because I’m aware of the challenges for young people and can provide insight into how our work really affects them.”
Vicky Smith, young trustee, Focus Birmingham: “I wanted to expand my understanding of leadership at a governance level in practice. And it’s a cause I feel really passionate about. It was a perfect fit because the charity was looking for someone with marketing and fundraising skills and I have significant relevant experience.”
Eleanor Urben is trusteeworks manager at Reach Volunteering