The Challenges of Trustee Recruitment for Small UK Charities

by | Aug 1, 2023 | Governance

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We have to face facts. The charity sector is like no other. It is vibrant, eclectic, the people are driven, motivated, and determined, and the reward of the feel-good factor is incredible.

So why aren’t more people jumping at the chance to be part of this?

Why are over half of the UK’s small charities struggling to recruit trustees, with one in five charities continuing to have a vacancy on its board?

In this post, we look at some of the main challenges charities face with trustee recruitment and practical solutions you can implement to help overcome these.

The role of a trustee

The role of a trustee is not to be underestimated.

It is a role that is varied and wide-reaching.

It is also a role that comes with specific duties and legal responsibilities.

Ensuring that the goals of your charity and all of the activities undertaken align with the overall vision and values, a trustee is responsible for ensuring the charity continues to operate in the best interest of its beneficiaries.

Providing advice, guidance, and support in key areas, utilising their strengths to help the charity thrive, building an effective board, and finding the right and the best people to govern your charity is vital.

Challenges of trustee recruitment for small UK charities


As we know, finding the right candidates for roles within your board structure is a constant uphill battle.

Scoping for the perfect skillset and level of trustee for many small charities is challenging due to a potential lack of awareness of your charity, lack of an advertising budget to promote such a role, and charity managers not having the capacity to recruit outside of current networks.

In fact, we have seen reports from Charity Jobs [AT1] stating that advertising of trustee vacancies accounts for only 10%, as many charities opt for a word-of-mouth approach to advertising to reduce costs or support advertising with no budget allocation!


Carry out a skills audit – look at the skillset of your current board, what skills are you currently missing, what experience could support your charity further, and what does your charity need? As well as key commercial and technical skills think about the soft skills required and the diversity of your board.

Produce a job description – after identifying the critical skills required, produce a job description you can be proud of. One that doesn’t shy away from the skills you want, promotes your ideal candidate, and informs potential trustees of what is involved in the role.

Stop recruiting from the same networks and start getting creative – If we continue to use the same networks, we always have, we’re limiting ourselves to finding the ideal trustee. Advertising for the role of a trustee doesn’t have to be costly; it just has to be clever. Look to tap into and engage your current trustees’ networks and ask them to share the job description across their platforms, opening and widening the potential pool of candidates.

Lack of diversity

One of the seven best practice principles in the Charity Governance Code covers diversity, stating:

“A board of trustees with different backgrounds and experience is more likely to encourage debate and make better decisions.”

And we agree.

One of the most significant challenges charities face is diversity on their board. As these are voluntary roles, it is often hard for those who work full-time to commit to what can often feel like a second job.

However, we know that diversity is necessary for the effectiveness of leadership and decision-making. We even see charities struggle due to the lack of representation for their communities and service users.


Introduce open recruitment – what does your charity do, and what perspective are you missing from your board of trustees? I always give the example of a relief charity that may have an accountant or a solicitor on their board, which is great and extremely beneficial; however, if all trustees have a household income above the national median, then are they in the best position to understand the real impact of poverty relief? In this instance, you need someone on the ground whose perspective can prove invaluable to ensuring that the services offered are fit for purpose.

Create a trustee behaviour framework – what does your ideal trustee look like? What traits do they bring to the role, and what are their motivations? Having this framework available during interviews allows you to continue to seek what you’re looking for – your ideal trustee.

Change things – just because you’ve always had board meetings at 10 am on a Tuesday doesn’t mean you still have to, especially if it means you can recruit and keep a more diverse board. Be as flexible as you can, within reason.


The role of a trustee requires a big commitment, and we can’t and shouldn’t hide this point. However, when recruiting, we understand this is a considerable challenge.


Be transparent – be open and honest about what you require and the actual level of commitment that you need.

Review processes and procedures – is there a more effective and efficient way of doing certain things, allowing for more flexibility and shared responsibility?

Onboarding issues

Due to high volume workloads, onboarding trustees can take a long time, and we mean a long time. The challenge this presents include the selected candidate no longer wanting to join the board, or they have joined but aren’t fully aware of their responsibilities, so they aren’t as effective in their role.


Block out time – we know this is easier said than done, but it is crucial. Once you have selected your trustee and they have accepted the post, get them in! Make sure you review your recruitment processes and onboarding strategies beforehand and update these if required; this allows you and your team to get to work asap and not lose the momentum.

Trustees and small UK charities

There are ongoing challenges for charities across the UK when we delve into recruiting trustees; however, there are solutions we can implement and introduce small changes to build a stronger position.

From carrying out a skills audit on your board to providing training, policy reviews, and risk management, the team at Beyond Profit is always on hand to help with charity governance.

Helping you make your trustee board more effective, book a discovery call with us to discuss your needs further.

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