“Help us to help you”

Published by Sean Rodwell on 12 November 2018

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So often articles and guidance discuss what Trustees and Boards can do to support their charity and focus on what makes good governance. Our own charity page features numerous articles around this subject. But with so much of what a charity achieves relying on its Trustees and their support, what can the charity do to support its board? After all, it’s expected that a charity would look after its staff and volunteers, so shouldn’t Trustees be included in this too?

All charities should have a formal recruitment and induction process for new Trustees, that’s a given, but what should this include? Fundamentally, this process should set out the roles and responsibilities of the Trustee, clearly establishing what is expected of them. Trustees need to understand the commitment they are making and have an opportunity to say no. Whilst you shouldn’t actively be putting off potential Trustees, it’s important that any prospective Trustee fully appreciate what is required of them. It is better to have a vacancy in your board than a Trustee that is actively disengaged.

It should go without saying that there should be a clear line between the management of a charity and those charged with governance in order to avoid micro-management and various other issues, but Trustees need to have an understanding of the day-to-day operations of a charity. It’s very hard to make informed strategic decisions if you don’t know how those decisions will impact those running the charity. The difficulty is, how do you facilitate an opportunity for Trustees to learn about the day-to-day workings of the charity? Some charities go for the approach of encouraging Trustees to attend the charity during the day and watch the services being delivered, but Trustees are volunteers and may not have time for this. Another possibility is to have individual staff members attend Trustee meetings to present on what their role encompasses. Not only will this give Trustees an insight into the particular member’s role, but it also helps to promote an open and honest relationship between staff and Trustees.

The clear and obvious way of supporting Trustees is providing them with regular relevant training. This doesn’t have to be training provided by the charity, a quick Google of “trustee training” reveals all manner of seminars and webinars taking place throughout the year. At Kreston Reeves we regularly put on Trustee training to provide updates on the hot topics in the charity sector as well as often hosting a session on governance for new Trustees, or simply those in need of a refresher. Charities should keep a training record for Trustees too – similar to that kept for staff. This will help to identify any skills gaps or those Trustees who need to be encouraged to attend training.

We often hear from charities that it’s difficult recruiting Trustees, and furthermore creating a board with a wide range of skills, knowledge and expertise. If you’re in a position where you’ve worked hard to establish a strong board, it’s crucial that you continue to support them.

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