Trustee support – something needs to change

When it comes to the leadership of the charity sector, and in particular the volunteer trustees who serve on the boards of all charities, if we keep doing what we’ve always done then let’s not be surprised if we keep getting what we’ve always got.  Another high profile charity casualty won’t just be possible, it will be a certainty.

The PACAC report on Kids Company delivered strong criticism on the way the charity was run with particular reference to the role of the trustees. The problems experienced in this charity may not be common, but to dismiss such instances as one-offs is to miss the greater point: the charity operated in a regulated sector and was led by intelligent and committed people operating through standard charity governance structures. Yet something still went wrong.  So what’s preventing the same thing happening again in another charity?

Here is what we believe needs to fundamentally change in the sector:

We believe that being a trustee is a challenging and vital leadership role:
The sector must take the future of trustees seriously and be prepared to invest in the development of these volunteer leaders, and trustees themselves must be prepared to invest time in their own development.

We believe new trustees need more than six hours of support to do a great job:
The vast majority of development currently available for trustees is through half or one day training courses. This is not sufficient.  New trustees need a programme of support that prepares them for their role, helps them to integrate into a new team and provides on-going coaching and peer-to-peer learning. For example our Advanced Trustee Programme supports new and existing trustees in a way that ensures their long lasting personal impact and professional development. According to the Rt Hon. the Baroness Prashar CBE, “regulatory burdens and demands being placed on trustees are increasing. It is, therefore, becoming important that these trustees are given relevant support. The Advanced Trustee Programme does just that.”

We believe that understanding the job description is not sufficient to guarantee high performance:
The content of training must also change. Although essential, we believe it’s not sufficient to acquire knowledge on the role and responsibility of a trustee – the ‘job description’.  We need to understand best practice charity management, how the impact of the charity is measured and monitored and what data is required by the board to track the performance of the charity.

We believe greater diversity must be encouraged within charity boards:
The recruitment policy to the Trustee Academy, combined with the offer of generous bursaries, serves to make the programme accessible to a wide range of individuals from different backgrounds, at various stages of their careers and including service users who are encouraged to serve on the boards of the charities that support them.