By Lynne Gilbert, Lynne Gilbert Consulting
Most of us have a good understanding of the vital role trustees perform in shaping, steering and regulating the 194,00 plus charities in the UK. However, did you know that up to 75% of trustees leave at the end of their first term in office, according to research from The Trustee Fellowship (charityleaders.or.uk). It surprised me and begs the question… WHAT IS GOING ON?
We can all come up with reasons why this is happening. It is too easy to point a finger at things we cannot control such as political, social and economic factors not forgetting personal reasons. But what about actions we do have control over and can take responsibility for? With that very thought in mind I have come up with what I feel are 10 practical tips for getting the best from your trustees, winning over your new trustees and increasing the chances that trustees do not vote with their feet!!
This is by no means a definitive list. Whether you are an existing trustee, a new trustee, the chair or a chief executive this is relevant and of help. See this as a working document that you can measure your own board’s behaviour against, use it as a tool to stimulate discussion or as a guide to identify and implement change. Of course add your own thoughts and ideas. However, there is one vital element you must have to engage with this…..‘willingness’. How willing are you to have a thorough, objective and rational look at what is going on in your trustee board? Can you look at the current situation and identify what needs to be better and take responsibility for doing something about it? The list is below. Take a look:
- Proper Preparation: Looking for a new trustee then be sure you know what you are looking for and why. We are talking skills audit, a well-defined recruitment, interview, induction and development process. Above all make sure before you start the formal process that they are right for this type of volunteer role and they are doing It for the right reasons. Heed the words of Benjamin Franklin “If you fail to prepare you prepare to fail”
- Strong leadership: Effective, strong leadership will get results. How effective is the chair? Who is leading who on the board? What is the relationship between the chair and the chief executive relationship?
- High performing team: Invest time in turning a group of people into a high performing team. It takes time and will not just happen from meeting 4/5 times a year. Make sure your team is not one where 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Everyone needs a role, responsibilities, deliverables and accountability.
- Understand your legal requirements: Prevent surprises for your trustees and ensure that they understand and know what they are taking on and their legal responsibilities. Make available all relevant up-to-date documentation, regulatory legislation, the governing document and terms of reference.
- Know all about your charity: Trustees have an obligation to be up-to-date and well informed about all aspects of their charity. The more the trustees know about the work of the charity, the staff and the beneficiaries the more engaged they will become.
- Encourage creativity: Encourage and celebrate different and new ideas. A ‘can do’ mind set is invigorating and motivational for a board. You will stand a stronger chance of retaining diversity amongst the board and drawing in younger members.
- Great meetings: Do not squander your precious 4-6 meetings a year by running poorly planned, poorly chaired meetings that leave attendees feeling that this was a waste of their time. How effective are your meetings?
- Communication that works: Effective communication builds strong relationships. How you communicate in-between meetings is just as important as during.
- Effective decision making: Ensure that all trustees understand and agree on the decision making process. Ambiguity and misunderstanding is destructive to the cohesiveness of the board.
- Make it enjoyable: People volunteer their time and skill to make a difference and to feel valued but they also want it to be enjoyable. It has been said if it isn’t enjoyable it isn’t worth doing! How enjoyable is it being a trustee on your board?
Lynne has had a successful commercial background and works as a management development consultant and executive coach. She has combined her consultancy work with supporting the charity sector for the past 22 years. She currently is trustee on a couple of charities, as well as chairs the Brian Murtagh charitable trust. There she has an advisory role and spends her time conducting strategic reviews and assessing trustee effectiveness.