01 November 2015
WANTED! More trustees for Christian organisations
Charities with the right trustees involved with head and heart are strengthened almost incalculably.
Yet, in a room full of Christian charity directors or charity board chairs, a significant majority will tell you that more skilled trustees are needed. It seems to be hard to match supply and demand.
Why is this? We think it is because, as in so many areas of life, people discount themselves as not being right for it and miss the value they could add from personal involvement. They don't need to be charity law experts; in fact they don't need to be 'expert' in anything, although experience and skill is undeniably helpful. As 1 Corinthians 12 explains, this is about bringing 'who you are' and giving time to strengthen 'the whole'.
The most needed seem to be under-40s, women and those from ethnic backgrounds with professional skills. The needs vary from one charity to another, but those working in finance, HR, law, property, strategy, organisational development, marketing or communications are highly valued. But it isn't just technical skills - it's about experience, it is the understanding of those the charity is reaching and it is about a team coming to good decisions.
Recent research by the Evangelical Alliance's research club with 1,200 respondents indicated that 23 per cent of evangelicals already act as trustees, while another 20 per cent would be willing if the opportunity arose and 24 per cent would consider, with relevant training. This same study found only nine per cent said they didn't think they had relevant experience, and just four per cent weren't interested.
More than half of those asked would be willing to take up a role if they had some help. So together, the Evangelical Alliance, Stewardship and Global Connections are trying to address the shortage. Global Connections and the Alliance already work jointly to host a governance hub and a forum for CEOs, and want to build on this to better resource their member organisations and churches as well as other charities by:
- Making Christians more aware of the amazing value of the role and the shortage of trustees
- Advertising specific vacancies and matching them to competent candidates
- Providing opportunities to help train potential trustees
The charity commission encourages us to 'fish' beyond our own known contacts, yet most Christian charities are concerned that they might recruit those who don't fully share their values. Matching trustees to organisations is important, and like most good relationships, need a time of testing the water, but fresh and external views can be extremely valuable.
Employers should be encouraged to allow staff to take time off to be charity trustees as it's an opportunity for personal development. Virtually every time I've attended a trustee meeting I've returned having learnt something new that will benefit me and my employer. And we've not had to pay fees for a training course.
Want to find out more? Here are some frequently asked questions:
WHO/WHAT IS A TRUSTEE?
Trustees are the people in charge of a charity. They play a vital role, volunteering their time and working together to make important decisions about the charity's work. They may be called trustees, the board, the management committee, governors, directors or something else.
WHERE CAN I GET TRAINING AS A TRUSTEE?
- Stewardship for trustee support materials, training and more individual services
- Anthony Collins solicitors
- The Global Connections and Evangelical Alliance governance hub
- The National Council for Voluntary Organisations
WHAT ARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF A CHARITY TRUSTEE?
An important background text is the Charity Commission's publication The essential trustee what you need to know. Trustees have six main duties, you can read about them by
visiting the website here.
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK IF I'M APPROACHED TO BE A TRUSTEE?
I'm regularly asked for advice by people who've been approached to be a trustee for the first time. I'd recommend that anyone who is approached
- to attend a trustees (board) meeting as an observer
- for a copy of the strategic plan
- for a copy of the most recent annual report and financial statements - the trustees report will be the most interesting bit if you aren't very financially literate
- for a copy of the governing document to understand what the object of the charity is, what it has powers to do and how it operates
- What they're particularly hoping you will contribute
- How much time will be expected.
NB Many trustees are expected to give time for activities beyond the formal board meetings so clarify the expectation at the outset.
WHY BECOME A TRUSTEE?
- to use your skills, experience, knowledge and ideas to make a lasting difference to a cause or organisation you care about
- to develop new and transferable skills
- to widen your horizons and broaden your experience
- to learn about corporate governance
- to work with new people who share your passion
- to learn how other organisations do things, which could benefit you in your own employed role
- to enhance your CV and possibly open your eyes to other career paths
- And it's the perfect volunteering opportunity for busier people.