Young people want to become trustees but don't know how, research shows

A large number of people aged 18-24 want to become charity trustees, but know too little about the role or where to find more information, new research has revealed.

According to a survey of 500 people aged 18-24, a lack of awareness and understanding are the key factors preventing young people from becoming charity trustees.

The research, which has been published to coincide with Trustees Week, was conducted by insurer Ecclesiastical, together with Getting on Board and the Young Trustees Movement.

It found that the majority of respondents don't know what a trustee is; just one in 10 could explain the role when asked.

This is despite a large number showing they currently support charities through donating (30%), volunteering (30%), or fundraising (19%). Nine per cent of respondents said they are currently a trustee.

Once the role was explained, almost a quarter (24%) of those surveyed said they would consider becoming a trustee, while almost two in five respondents said they would be more encouraged to become a trustee if they knew more about the role and how to become one.

Improving their employability and gaining skills were both important factors for respondents, with a third of (32%) saying they would be encouraged to join a charity board if it supported their career goals and was recognised by employers as valuable experience (27%). Flexible meeting times (24%) were also important.

“Our research tells us that charities need to do more to promote the benefits of being a trustee," Ecclesiastical Insurance charity director, Angus Roy said.

"The board of trustees will often form the strategy for the charity and so trustees gain invaluable experience in strategic planning and managing long-term risks. Working closely with other board members also means working as a team and learning from each other.

“The role also comes with a lot of responsibility, as trustees have to make sure the charity is run properly and uses its charitable funds and assets wisely to deliver its objectives. So, for young people, it’s a great opportunity to learn new skills and gain experience.”

More engagement needed

However, respondents clearly stressed the charity sector needs to do more to engage with young people and encourage them to get involved.

Almost half (48%) said more guidance was needed from charities on how to become a trustee, while 45% said charities needed to promote the benefits of being a trustee more widely.

This was followed by 42% saying charities should demonstrate that the skills and experience gained were valuable in the job market. The same number (42%) said charities should do more to proactively engage with schools and universities.

Getting on Board chief executive of trustee recruitment, Penny Wilson added: “We already know that young people are under-represented on charity boards as volunteer trustees. We must do more to involve young people in charity governance to draw on their skills and experiences, to reflect the next generation in our strategic planning, and to ensure a fresh supply of new people into the trustee body."

Young trustees want to 'make a difference'

The research follows the launch of the Young Trustees Movement, which has a mission to double the number of trustees aged 30 and under on charity boards by 2024.

The campaign's founder, Leon Ward said: "I became a trustee when I was 18 years old and now at 27 I am currently serving as deputy chair of Brook. A board’s strength lies in its collective skills and perspectives. To understand the charity’s beneficiaries properly and serve them effectively, it needs a diverse range of people from a variety of backgrounds and experience.

"Trustees should particularly consider the benefits young people can bring to the boardroom such as new talents and a fresh perspective. In return, trusteeship is an excellent way for young people to learn new skills and progress professionally."

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