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Trustees should have relevant knowledge, networks and experiences.

This feels like stating the bleeding obvious, but common sense is not necessarily common practice. “We are still instinctively impressed with particular professions or experiences, regardless of whether the person adds something different to the discussions,” one person told me.

 

TRAITS OF A TRUSTEE

 

 

Trustees must be generous with their skills and support.

It is not enough to have useful things on your CV. Trustees must be proactive in leveraging their own expertise.

 

Trustees must commit to their own development.

This applies whether a trustee is improving their understanding of the charity, the field in which it operates or other areas of skills or knowledge. After all, how can a person make a decision on something they don't truly understand?

 

Trustees should be willing to learn about charity governance and finance.

If organisations require applicants to already have this knowledge (and there are cases where that is necessary), they recruit from a much smaller and less diverse pool. So charities need to consider how they can provide or signpost this training.

 

Trustees should have good self-awareness.

Trustees must recognise their shortcomings and be proactive in addressing them for the benefit of the organisation. A good trustee asks themselves how to be a good trustee.

 

Trustees must be passionate about the mission.

Trustees need to leave their ego at the door and recognise that this isn’t about them. They should commit the time and effort needed to really know the organisation.

Trustees need to be able to challenge with good intent.

“I think a great trustee is one who isn’t afraid to be a disruptor,” one person told me. “While a harmonious and jolly board meeting is all well and good, you do need people who are brave enough to share a challenging opinion.”

 

Trustees should listen, be open to challenge and be able to change their minds.

Often trustees like the sound of their own voices too much and have made up their minds before the discussion takes place. They also have a role in supporting fellow board members to have their voices heard.

 

Trustees should have the ability to listen and desire to hear the voices of those who are impacted by the decisions they make.

The voices of those who have lived experience of the issues the charity is trying to tackle are too often absent from board decisions. Ultimately, if a board doesn't have a service user in its ranks, then it is missing valuable intel.