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How smaller charities could benefit from getting younger people on board

Blog post   •  May 18, 2017 11:57 BST

With Small Charity Week taking place from 19th to 24th June 2017, Ian Joseph, CEO, Trustees Unlimited, looks at the benefits that younger trustees could bring to charities

It was interesting to read the recent House of Lords Select Committee report on Charities which made the case that good governance depends on having a diverse board of trustees – with individuals from all walks of life and ages who can offer different skills and experiences.

Personally, I’d like to see more charities taking on young people and graduates as trustees as I believe they many are missing out on the skills, knowledge and experiences that the younger generation can offer.

Currently the average age of a trustee in England and Wales is 59 years old[i], and whilst there are just over 1 million trustees in the UK, only around 86,000 trustee positions are held by 16-34 year olds.

Smaller charities especially, who don’t have large boards or lots of resources, could benefit enormously from recruiting younger people.

Bringing on board young people with digital skills could prove invaluable in terms of helping with fundraising and marketing strategies and ensuring that an organisation stays current and relevant to its donors and beneficiaries.

Interestingly, while charities might underestimate the willingness of younger people to join a charity board, research tells us there they have a big appetite for volunteering that perhaps the sector isn’t tapping into.

Last year, a report, ‘More to Give: London Millennials Working Towards a Better World,’[ii] by City Philanthropy and Cass Business School, suggested that 53 per cent of under-35s working full time in London want to volunteer more and this figure rises to 60 per cent in the 18-24 age group.

The report also found that millennials don’t want to just give money to charities, they want to apply their professional or business skills to help organisations, understanding that in turn they will gain experience that will benefit their work and personal lives. Three-quarters said their involvement in giving had improved their own leadership and motivational skills.

But engaging young trustees will take a culture shift for many charities. Boards will need to be more open minded about their recruitment and welcome people from more diverse backgrounds, as well as spend more time training and mentoring them too.

They may also need to consider new recruitment channel such as advertising roles on social media and online.

A good formal induction process is also vital. For many younger recruits, it will be their first trustee role, so charities need to be mindful of this and ensure people aren’t thrown in at the deep end.

The House of Lords Select Committee report also highlighted that trustees need to feel confident and well informed if they are to provide strategic direction, oversight and challenge. It recommended that smaller charities would benefit from having free access to a template induction process, which is a sensible idea.

Providing a buddy or mentor for younger trustees could also help them settle in and learn what’s expected of them. Finally, it’s important to do an appraisal every year – as well as making people accountable; it helps people feel secure, and provides a platform for raising any concerns or issues they may have.

[i] http://trusteesweek.org/

[ii] http://www.cityphilanthropy.org.uk/sites/default/files/user-uploads/mtg-2_final_spreads_30.10.15.pdf

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