Top tips for digital trustee recruitment

Building boards for a digital age is a collaborative campaign led by Reach Volunteering. These tips are designed to support your recruitment process and sit alongside our sample digital trustee role.

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1. Identify the skills and expertise you are looking for

Which digital skills do you need on your trustee board to help your charity achieve its strategy? Read Zoe Amar’s guidance on how to identify digital skills gaps on your board.

A note about ‘hands-on’ trustee roles

Are you thinking about recruiting a trustee to do a hands-on project? If so, ask yourself if it is really a trustee that you need. Why not recruit  a consultant or volunteer to do the work instead? 

We understand that trustees often play a hands-on role in small charities, but it’s usually wise to separate strategic oversight of a digital project from its implementation. It will also help focus your recruitment: a project is (hopefully) short-term, whilst a trustee role is long term commitment; and someone with the right technical skills might not be interested in, or suited to, governance.

If you have a project in mind, why not recruit a trustee with relevant expertise to help you decide the right approach, evaluate proposals and provide oversight; and then consider the best way to resource the implementation. A more strategic approach will probably save you time and effort in the long run.

2. Attract great candidates: write a fantastic role description

Sell your charity

What difference does your charity make? Why does it matter?  Make a short, succinct and compelling case for why your work is so important.

Sum up  your strategy

Explain where you are at the moment, and where you want to be in a few years’ time.  This is the journey that you are asking the trustee to join you on. Make it interesting!

Seduce the candidate

Spell out why you looking for someone with digital expertise. What contribution will they make to strengthening your charity’s work and reaching its goals? Describe the impact that the trustee could have on your work.

Summarise the role

Write a clear role description. Please don’t list every legal duty of a trustee! Summarise key duties, and describe the specific focus  you want this trustee to have. Outline any relevant projects, sub-committees, or working  groups.

Specify the qualities you are looking for

What experience do they need to bring? Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need – the more specific you are, the more likely that the right candidate will identify with the role. But keep an open mind: skills can be transferable across industries and sectors.  It can be useful to define what it essential and what is a ‘nice-to-have’.

Remember soft skills too. A digital trustee is only useful if they are good at translating their expertise for other board members. Are they willing and able to grasp your charity’s strategy or play by its values?

Would you like help getting started? This sample digital trustee role description can help you go in the right direction.

3. Engage with candidates

Trustee recruitment is a two-way process. Most prospective trustees want to get to know your charity before committing to governing it, and people from digital industries may be quite unfamiliar with how charities work. Invest time in this stage, and you are far more likely to have a successful outcome.

Encourage dialogue

Make it easy for interested people to ask questions from the outset.  If you’re recruiting through Reach we make this option part of the process. If not, provide contact details. People from digital industries are used to a more ‘social’ approach to recruitment.

Meet

Open days, informal meetings with the CEO or Chair, opportunities to see the charity in action. These can all inform and inspire candidates. 

Respect their time

Ask for all the information that you need to shortlist – a CV and covering letter are common  tools and a well crafted letter will tell you plenty about the candidate. But please don’t ask them to fill out an application form! This is just a bureaucratic hurdle, and will discourage many good candidates. If you need extra information, ask at the point at which it is needed (eg on appointment).

Read more

We have a range of resources on trustee recruitment, including tips for interviewing candidates and for inducting your new appointee. You can also refer to our sample digital trustee role.