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Young Trustees: challenges and solutions

In 2015, the Charities Aid Foundation teamed up with young trustee (and Getting on Board trainer!) Leon Ward to write a guide to help charities recruit young trustees. Here Leon gives some tips for charities on how to recruit young trustees.

The following cheat sheet is broken down into challenges and solutions to help both young trustees and charities thrive in partnership together. The data and case studies were reported to the authors of the Young Trustee Guide and you may find that some of the solutions below need to be ‘owned’ by the Chair rather than the executive. Also, some of these solutions about practical changes – others are about cultural changes. We have limited this cheat sheet to the three suggestions under each challenge category. However, you can access the full report here:

Time and availability

  • Ask new trustees what times might work/not work for them and try and schedule board meetings accordingly. Remember, many young trustees are in junior day jobs and may not have the flexibility that others do. Book dates a year in advance.

  • Be very clear about the board’s expectations of time commitment.

  • Ask new trustees what format they would like their papers in.

Awareness of what the role entails

  • Ensure there is a full induction of new colleagues.

  • Offer a mentoring relationship between an existing trustee and a new one to aid in navigating the structures and culture of the charity.

  • Can you offer shadow positions on the boards? People who are not appointed trustees but observe a couple of meetings, contribute to discussions but take no part in decision making. This will help create a constituency of people to recruit from in the future.

Legal liability

  • Make it clear that taking on responsibility for an organisation is a positive thing to do. Reinforce that will help with the career and give any new trustee an advantage in the job market.

  • Think about offering training for all new trustees so they can understand that personal liability is, typically, limited.

  • Make it clear to new trustees that their objections to critical decisions can be noted without undermining the collegiate nature of the board.

Engagement across multiple areas

  • Think about how your executive present ‘dry’ areas at the board. Is there a different way of presenting complex information that will be easier for all trustees to understand

  • Typically, financial management is a skill that many young trustees will not have developed in their career yet. So offer all trustees basic finance training. Even if that is done in house with your finance team.

  • During induction, ask trustees about their knowledge so you can gauge their level of understanding and react accordingly.

Being Valued

  • If a young trustee is treated as less important than other trustees it is the responsibility of the board to challenge this and make clear that all trustees should be able to contribute equally.

  • By introducing ways to make the running of board meetings more accessible to all board members, you can prevent your young trustees from feeling patronised and can help encourage your other board members to be more engaged.

  • You should also remember that once they are trustees, young people have a right to be involved in all board issues, including recruiting new trustees, new chairs, new CEOs and the right to sit on steering committees. It can be empowering for young trustees if you encourage their participation or even suggest they lead a piece of work.

Fear of looking stupid

  • Present information in a clear and simple way and never make assumptions about knowledge levels amongst trustees. Papers should also balance detail with not flooding trustees with irrelevant information. This will help make board papers more accessible for all.

  • Welcome questions and challenge from trustees. Creating a culture of real transparency is key here. Indeed, often people with a lack of knowledge ask the most insightful/useful questions.

  • Remember that diversity of perspective is just as important as diversity of knowledge and skills. Create a culture where that can thrive.

To download the full guide please visit:

The author of this report is available on Twitter @Leonjward or by email on



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