While the charity sector strives for equality, representation on charity trustee boards is mainly made up of white, middle aged, men. It is a problem which desperately needs addressing.
I'm 24, female and I have been a charity trustee since I was 21. But I realise I am in a very small minority. In fact, despite 12% of the population being under 35, only 0.5% of trustees are. When you think about the number of charities who will work with children and young adults as part of their activities you have to ask the question: "Why aren't young people being represented on boards?'
The answer does not lie in youth disengagement; quite the opposite actually. When asked, 85% of under 35s stated that they would consider becoming a charity trustee. So the desire is definitely there, and they realise the number of benefits on offer to them.
I have had an invaluable insight into charity governance from very early on in my career and have been exposed to career development opportunities and influential networks that I wouldn't have otherwise. For example, I have been leading on the development of the Communications materials for a huge mental health awareness event and I have sat in meetings with a variety of leading public and third sector organisations and been listened to as I proposed ideas for new services. It is the type of responsibility a 24 year old might not get anywhere else. If we want to keep young people engaged with the charity sector and encourage a future of volunteering and giving we have to offer young people these opportunities early on. Anyone over the age of 18 can become a trustee: why so many of the middle aged men?
One of the problems young applicants face is that there simply isn't enough information out there on what it means to be a charity trustee. There is confusion over what the role entails and charities need to do more to reach young people interested in trusteeships. The way you recruit a young PR professional to your board is very different from how you might recruit a retired accountant.
The new Young Trustees Guide produced by the Charities Aid Foundation outlines a variety of ways in which charities can extend their reach to young trustees and gives advice on how boards can identify what skill gaps a young trustee can fill. One of the main suggestions is that recruitment of trustees should no longer rely just on word of mouth, and instead charities should embrace the opportunities offered by online volunteering services like Do - it.org and trusteefinder.co.uk.
What is frequently overlooked is the amount of skills and experience young trustees can bring to a board. They are often the ones to challenge the status quo and un - tap new ways of doing things which improve efficiency. With the confidence to ask questions and an eagerness to learn young trustees add a lot of diversity and fresh energy into boards. I'm often the one saying 'Yes, but..if we do it this way' at my board meetings. Greater scrutiny leads to greater decision making.
They are also very digitally connected and can offer untold insights into Digital Communication strategies; this is one of my priorities at my current trusteeship: advising on social media and Digital Comms. Finally, as the CAF Trustees Guide clearly states, one of the biggest benefits of having young trustees on board is that you create a line of succession and ensure that you will have engaged and knowledgeable trustees long into the future