Services > Building Resilience > Trustee Recruitment

How to recruit new trustees on a shoestring budgetCity Bridge Trust logo

This guidance has been adapted from the ‘Recruiting Trustees’ workshop delivered by the Small Charities Coalition. Check ‘Upcoming Events’ for the next available workshop.

This guidance is for co-opting new trustees from outside your membership. For information about recruiting from your existing membership please consult your charity’s Governing Document.

1. Trustee Recruitment Policy

The key to a successful recruitment process - paid or voluntary - is to plan it like a process. Write down each step of the process and create your charity’s very own Trustee Recruitment Policy. This saves you time when repeating the procedure in the future.

Model Trustee Recruitment Policy [Word, 59KB]

2. Statement

Remind yourselves who trustees are and what their role is, and include this in your opening statement of your Trustee Recruitment Policy.

The Charity Commission states that:

Trustees have and must accept ultimate responsibility for directing the affairs of a charity, and ensuring that it is solvent, well-run, and delivering the charitable outcomes for the benefit of the public for which it has been set up.

We recruit new trustees to ensure our boards have the range of skills and experience necessary to comply with our collective responsibility.

3. Governing Document

Check your Governing Document for any pre-existing rules about how you recruit new trustees. This might include the number of trustees you must have, who you can and cannot recruit, where you can recruit from and who should be involved in the process. Insert any specific provisions into this part of your Trustee Recruitment Policy or add to the relevant sections later on.

As an example, the Small Charities Coalition’s Governing Document states:

  (6) There shall be a minimum of three Trustees.

  (6.1) At least one third of the Trustees shall have relevant experience or a background in small charities, including having been a trustee, volunteer or employee. However, periods when vacancies are waiting to be filled shall not be counted in determining whether there is a requisite majority of Trustees from or with such experience or background in small charities.

  (6.2) Save for the first Governing Body, casual vacancies shall be filled by the Appointments Panel.

4. Recruitment/Appointment Panel

A lack of time committed to the recruitment process is a common pitfall for an effective trustee recruitment campaign so create a working group/appointment committee made up of trustees and/or staff and assign roles, tasks and set time frames.

5. Skills/Need Analysis

Use the recruitment of a new trustee to review the needs of your charity and the skills and experience of your existing board.

To do this, conduct a skills/needs audit of your charity and board to reflect on the skills and experience you have, what you are missing and ultimately, what you would like to recruit.

The audit can either be completed individually or as a collective. You should give the option for audits to be completed anonymously and it is the responsibility of the Appointment Panel to collate and analyse the responses, and keep records.

As a board think about:

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Strategy – what stage of your development are you at? What people can help deliver it? – deliver the development? 

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Organisational challenges – can specific people help with these? 

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Length of tenure – how ‘fresh’ is your board? 

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Board Culture – are you all ‘yes’ people or do you enjoy healthy debate? 

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Specific Roles – do you have your key roles covered (Chair, Treasurer and Secretary)?   

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Size of your Board – is it too small?  

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Knowledge/Expertise (skills)

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The outcomes from this exercise will contribute to the role description later.

However, the audit may also show you do not need to recruit because either the skills/experience already exist within the board or you have trustees that would like to develop their own skills/experience to meet the gaps identified by the skills/needs analysis.

Example skills audits:

1) Reach [Word, 2MB]
2) Sports and Recreational Alliance [opens a new window in your browser]

6. Role Description  

It is important that you create a Role Description and in addition to the skills/experience identified from the skills analysis, consider including the following: 

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What expectations does the role carry e.g. how often do you meet? 

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Information about your charity e.g. size, reach, stage of development. 

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Information about your board e.g. size, demographic.

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Instructions about how to apply. 

Example template role descriptions for a Trustee (general), Chair and Treasurer:

Trustee (general), Voluntary Works Bedfordshire [Word 30KB]
Chair, Reach [Word, 31KB]
Treasurer, Voluntary Action Islington [Word, 40KB]

7. Advert 

The exact size and content of the advert will depend on where you advertise but ultimately the advert will include the highlights of the information you collected for the job description. Important things to remember also are: 

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Explain succinctly what your charity does.  

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Be clear about commitment and expectations. 

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Mention benefits e.g. professional development or reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses.  

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Provide a link (e.g. to your website) of where to find more information (role description, governing document, annual accounts etc). Also consider providing an email or phone number for people to have an informal chat before applying.  

8. Where to advertise 

There are lots of free or very low cost websites to advertise your trustee vacancies.

Download the full list here [PDF, 94KB]

Ultimately put yourself in the shoes of the type of person you want to recruit and put your advert where they are most likely to see it.

Other places to consider are:

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Your own networks (supporters, existing volunteers, ex-colleagues, service users). 

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Local Volunteer Centres. 

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Social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn). 

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Your own events. 

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Local libraries, Doctors’ surgeries, supermarkets.

9. Shortlist

Decide who you want to interview by shortlisting candidates against the information in your role description. Keep shortlisting consistent between candidates and keep records.

10. Interview

Decide how you will interview (e.g. formal/informal), who will interview and prepare questions you want to ask candidates. Again, keep it consistent across all candidates and keep records.

11. Selection

Before you appoint someone consider the following:

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Request/follow up references.

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Invite candidates you like to observe a board meeting.

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Arrange a meeting with your Chair. 

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Be up front about personal liability and be clear about the measures your charity has taken to manage these (e.g. trustee indemnity insurance).

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Be clear about your reimbursements policy.

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Discuss any potential conflict of interest.

12. Appointment 

More things to remember when appointing a new trustee:

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Check your governing document for how your charity formally appoints new trustees e.g. a vote at a trustee meeting or AGM. 

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Ask the new trustee to read and sign a Declaration of Eligibility. It is your responsibility to check whether they are eligible and the Charity Commission suggests a few places to look e.g. the insolvency register.

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Does the new trustee require a DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service) check? 

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Notify the Charity Commission and Companies House (if charitable company) of the appointment. 

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If you are registered with HMRC for tax purposes then the new trustee needs to complete a Declaration for Fit and Proper Persons [Word, 25KB]. 


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Thank unsuccessful candidates.

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Consider whether unsuccessful candidates could volunteer in other capacities.

13. Induction  

Welcoming your new trustee is an important part of the recruitment process. Being new to any organisation can be daunting so do all you can to put your new trustee at ease by doing the following:

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Provide them with a Welcome Pack i.e. all the information they might need to govern effectively.

  • Information about other board members and key roles and responsibilities.

    • Governing Document.

    • Most recent Annual Accounts.

    • Past meeting’s minutes.

    • Relevant organisation policies.

    • List of important contacts within the organisation.

    • A copy of the Charity Commission’s ‘Essential Trustee’ [opens a new window in your browser].

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    Introduce them formally to the rest of your board. 

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    Set up meetings with staff, volunteers and the opportunity to visit projects.

    14. Retention

    Continual development of your board means better retention of board members.

    Consider the following:

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    Review your board on a regular basis. Aside from identifying skills gaps, it is an opportunity for existing (unmotivated) trustees to try new areas or have a different role or focus.

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    Provide training. Law and accountancy firms, the FSI and SCC are all good sources of free/affordable training.

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    Trustee away days – away from your usual meeting place; opportunity for group training or team building.

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    Get them involved in forums or networks e.g. local trustee networks, online networks etc.

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    Performance reviews/Appraisals – if you have time!

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