Third Sector Podcast: How to formulate a winning trustee board

Third Sector editor Emily Burt and senior multimedia reporter Lucinda Rouse are joined by Ian Joseph, managing director of Trustees Unlimited, to talk about what charities need to think about when creating an effective board. 

Ian describes the key qualities of a good trustee, from having an emotional connection to a charity’s cause to humility, courage and conscientiousness. He provides pointers on how to find the right trustee, starting with a charity’s personal links before casting the net wider, and stresses the need to formulate both a business and a moral case for board diversity to avoid tokenism.

You can listen to the episode here, or wherever you get your podcasts.


This is a transcript of the Third Sector Podcast episode: How to formulate a winning trustee board

This episode of the Third Sector Podcast is sponsored by Getting on Board.

Getting on Board’s Festival of Trusteeship 2023 took place in November and it was a brilliant week of webinars, panel discussions and learning about all aspects of trusteeship. If you missed out on attending the live events you can still access the learning by buying the box set of all 20 recordings for £25 in one easy download for you and your board.

The set includes a download of the brilliant Zoom chats that happened alongside the sessions. These are stuffed with invaluable comments, web links to useful organisations and resources, and the contact details of panellists who are excited to connect with attendees. Head to to get yours!

Lucinda Rouse: Hello and welcome to the Third Sector Podcast. I’m Lucinda Rouse

Emily Burt: And I’m Emily Burt. Each week we bring you half an hour of discussion and debate about the important goings on in the charity world. 

Lucinda: This week we’ll be reflecting on the key ingredients of a great trustee board. We’ll be hearing from our guest on how to find the best possible candidates, ensure the right balance, and be conscientious.

But before we get to that, we’re joined by our senior news reporter, Emily Harle, who’s here to tell us about a recent interview she did with the recently appointed chief executive of Help for Heroes, James Needham. 

Emily Harle: He is fairly new to the voluntary sector. He spent 15 years working in hospitality in senior management positions at the likes of Starbucks and Greene King. So it’s very interesting to hear his views on what’s going on in the sector at the moment. 

Emily B: That’s quite a transition isn’t it, from Starbucks to charity. 

Lucinda: What sense did you get around his motivations and what gets him really excited in this role? 

Emily H: So an interesting thing that he told me was that he sort of fell into the role. He had no ambition to be chief executive. He fell into the role after working with the charity for a period before that. 

But he told me that the part of the job he values the most is speaking with people and hearing directly from them about their experiences. 

James Needham: It fascinates me meeting other people and hearing their views on life, hearing their challenges, hearing their successes and their joys. One of my favorite moments recently was a veteran at a singing event, this was our choir meeting. 

With joy on his face was able to tell me that not only had he been out of his house on his own, he’d been able to do that and go shopping for his granddaughter’s Christmas presents. 

Those moments are really special and I’ve got a geeky diary at home that I write all this stuff down in, just because they’re moments of joy that you see in people. And of course you see moments of deep sadness as well as people are trying to work through that. And that’s where we help. 

Emily B: Something that I always really enjoy about working in this sector is that charities no matter how small, how large, you can go to any level of it and you always find people who are just so passionate and committed to their cause.

And I think it’s very interesting that he says, well, I just fell into this role. But actually the minute you got him talking, you can tell he has this real motivation and passion for his service users. 

And he goes home and he writes in his diary every night. I love that. As a diary writer myself, that’s very lovely.

Emily H: It was interesting as well because he compared it to when he worked in hospitality. He told me that one of the things he loved about that was that he got the chance to speak with people and he would ask people about their day and he would learn so much about them. 

So that’s clearly a really motivating factor and it’s so heartwarming to hear him speak about this in such a passionate way.

Lucinda: You also spoke about less passionate things in the form of revenue, fundraising, all the rest of it. What did he have to say about the outlook and the current situation for Help for Heroes? 

Emily H: Help for Heroes has faced additional challenges. It’s no longer as prevalent in the public eye as it used to be, and James told me that means people are less likely to donate to military charities in general.

What he did tell me is that now they’ve become more reliant on legacy donations. It’s now a bigger part of their income. And there are also risks associated with that, that we spoke about.

James: The challenge for us is, whilst we don’t want any UK operations to be on the front page of the press, the reality is our fundraising income has been in decline since UK forces withdrew from Afghanistan.

At the same time, we’ve still got four people being discharged from service every day. If we compare ourselves now to pre-pandemic levels, our income is 30 per cent down. Individual giving, corporate partnerships, they’ve been huge areas that have affected our performance. 

And so legacies becomes a larger part of the pie for us and that brings with it a bit more risk, because we all want a balanced portfolio of income to make sure that you can ride the peaks and troughs of the future. 

Emily H: The interesting thing that James told me about legacy income for Help for Heroes is that they haven’t seen a dip in that source of income yet, despite the risks that we just heard him talk about.

But this comes after recent research from Legacy Foresight that predicted that the current economic climate is likely to have an impact on this income source, despite the fact that it has been growing. 

That same research predicted that it’s meant to rise to £6bn by 2050, but the current economic climate means that that figure is quite unpredictable.

Lucinda: And then I guess James is coming from an interesting place given that he is fairly new to the sector, but he has worked in managerial roles before in hospitality. What did he have to say in terms of how charities are managed and how collaboration works in the sector? 

Emily H: So we spoke about the challenges of the current political and financial climate, especially as we’re gearing up to a general election, and how charities can work to ensure that they’re still pushing their causes and still advocating for their beneficiaries.

So collaboration came out as top of the list in terms of how to tackle these challenges head on, especially in the current climate. 

James: If you want to collaborate well, you need to have a good sense of your own identity as a charity, as an organisation. You need to have a shared understanding amongst yourselves of what are we good at, here’s what we can and can’t do and here’s what we want to improve. 

If you collaborate for collaboration’s sake there’s the risk that you just waste a lot of time and drink a lot of coffee and you don’t actually achieve anything at the end of it.

Emily B: I couldn’t agree with that more. And we’ve heard a lot around collaboration in the voluntary and not-for-profit sector.

And I think you can see so many examples of it being really effective, whether it’s collaborating on a management element or if it is looking at a specific campaign, a cause area-related thing. Or merging: we are seeing a lot of merging and those more formal partnerships coming into play at the moment.

But I think he’s exactly right in that if you don’t do it with intent, then you just, what was it? You drink a lot of coffee and make a lot of noise. 

Emily H: Yeah, which does seem to be true. And another thing that James said is he stressed how important it is to know yourself as charity before you pursue any sort of collaboration, whether that is more formal mergers or whether that is simply collaborating on a project, that it’s really important to know yourself, know your beneficiaries, and then you’ll know how you can work better with others working in the same field and working in the sector.

Emily B: Wonderful. Well, this long read is going to be coming out on the Third Sector website very, very soon. I’m certainly looking forward to reading it after hearing those clips. And Emily, thank you for coming on to tell us a little bit more about that interview.

Lucinda: Now on to today’s main discussion, which we are dedicating to trustees: what to consider when you’re recruiting, how to find great candidates and other issues of accessibility. 

Emily B: Trustees are one of the most crucial and unique roles in the voluntary sector. They’re unpaid volunteers, but ones who can shape the entire direction and strategy of a charity.

They support the charity’s leaders and they act as the final decision-makers for your organisation. So pretty important to have the right people. And we’re going to find out today what it takes to get the best for your board. 

Lucinda: We’re joined by Ian Joseph, managing director of Trustees Unlimited, a social purpose business specialising in trustee recruitment and corporate trustee placement.

Ian’s career has spanned charity management and, latterly, headhunting for the not-for-profit sector and private equity. Hi, Ian. 

Ian Joseph: Hi. 

Emily B: Great to have you with us. 

Ian: Great to be here. 

Lucinda: So first question. What in your opinion makes a great trustee? 

Ian: Well, firstly, great to be here. Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts.

And perhaps I could start by saying that trustees are unsung heroes. There must be over half a million of them in the UK. And I just don’t think enough has been done to promote what they do. And so I just want to say they’re all heroes in my mind and they’re fantastic. 

So in terms of what makes a good trustee? I think there are a few things. In no particular order, I think probably the first thing is you’ve got to have an emotional connection to the organisation. 

I think there’s a mistake that can be made here and I’ve seen two, so I’m going to quote verbatim. One was when I was interviewing a potential candidate to join an animal welfare charity and he said to me, I love animals more than people, to which I said that could be true, but probably not the best thing to say in an interview. 

Similarly, I had somebody who said to me, once again verbatim, I don’t really care what it is I do. I just want to use my skills. And again, that’s probably true. And it was true, but it didn’t really help his cause in joining that particular charity. 

So I think the first thing I would say, there’s something about having an emotional connection, a resonance with the organisation. But what you don’t want to do is be either too close or too far from it, so you’ve got to find that interesting balance. 

And the acid test for me is a cold January afternoon, and you’ve suddenly remembered you haven’t read the board papers and the board meeting is the next night and really what you want to do is cuddle up at home and watch EastEnders and have a cookie or something.

If you’re not jumping out of your sofa like a rocket because you’re really invested emotionally in the organisation, I think that’s not good. 

The second thing I think in terms of what makes a good trustee, I think there’s something about humility. Being really humble and recognising that there are some things I know and some things I don’t know and therefore being prepared to learn from other people.

One of the things I’ve realised with people that are truly humble is they’re often the most confident and the most courageous. And that brings me on to another point, which I think is a good trustee is courageous and will speak up about issues. They will not be afraid to rock the boat.

If they feel they don’t understand something, they will keep pushing until they understand it. They will not defer necessarily to the CEO and just accept everything on face value. So I think courage is really, really important. 

And probably the final thing is conscientiousness. And what I mean by that is if you’re going to be a trustee, you’ve got to recognise psychologically that this is something I’m doing 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it properly. 

And we’ve all been in situations where, I mean, I was in a situation yesterday, chairing a board meeting, and it was clear that one of my trustees hadn’t read the board papers. 

And so we were discussing an issue. And it was quite a big issue, and it came up and I said, look, I’m going to assume everybody’s read the board papers. We know what we’re talking about. Now let’s have a discussion. 

And then one of the trustees said hang on a sec. And he was flipping the papers. And I thought, that really irritates me. So I think if you’re going to do it, do it properly, be conscientious, set aside the time, and if you haven’t got the time, don’t do it. So there are a few of the things I would say. 

Emily B: Absolutely. 

Lucinda: You haven’t really mentioned qualifications or prior experience on boards. You founded an organisation which places trustees with charities. How can people looking to add a member or a couple of members to their trustee board identify in the people who are applying to them whether or not they’ve got what it takes?

Ian: I think there are lots of barriers to people becoming trustees. And before we get to the barriers, I think as an organisation, you’ve got to figure out what is it we’re looking for. 

And a mistake some organisations make is they hone in straight on skills. So they say, right, we’re going to do a skills audit, we need an accountant. Okay, that could be true. 

I think you’ve got to pan out and say, let’s have a much broader discussion as a board about the people that we need. Or diversity, and we might talk about that in a little bit. That could include people with lived experience. You’ve got to think much more broadly.

And then once you’ve done that, and you’ve said, okay, what are our strategic objectives? Where are the gaps? Let’s take into account all these other things around diversity. Then you identify the type of person you need. 

But I think if you go out and say, and it could be that you need someone with prior board experience. Definitely. So if you’re looking for a chair, you probably don’t want to take a risk on someone for whom this is their first rodeo and they’ve never done it before. That’s risky. And you could argue, actually, that’s not in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the charity. 

However, I see too many organisations going out and saying, we’re looking for a really senior experience leader with all this prior knowledge and that really puts people off. And depending on the type of person you’re looking for, you’ve got to give careful consideration to the way you promote your vacancies. 

So if you’re looking for a young person, don’t say we’re looking for prior board experience. Don’t say we’re looking for senior-level strategic fund management. Be really honest: we’re looking for a young person to join our board who has some experience of the services that we deliver. And we’re going to provide training and we’re going to have a great induction and we’re going to support you and we’re going to give you a buddy.

So just be careful, I think, there’s too much laziness when it comes to advertising roles. So people will Google, pull off a JD or they will put it on ChatGPT and say, give me a role description for a trustee and they’re off to the races. But no, that’s not the right way of doing it.

Emily B: And if you aren’t really intentional about the ways you advertise as well, you do end up creating problems for yourself in the long run. And you said let’s talk about diversity, but absolutely let’s talk about that and the business case for putting diversity front and centre when you’re thinking about recruiting your trustees. 

Because we all know this is a really prevalent issue in the charity sector. It’s something that I see coming up time and again is a lack of diversity on trustee boards. They can a lot of the time be very, very homogenous. And I think that’s to do with having that time available to commit if you’re being conscientious. 

But it’s also that people will advertise and say things like prior board experience required, in which case you do end up with a lot of older people. I hear pale, stale male. That’s the term I hear being thrown around a lot. 

So if you want to improve your board diversity, how do you go about doing that well, getting on that journey? 

Ian: I think before you go on any journey, you need to go on the journey of understanding what do we mean by diversity and why do we want diversity in the first place?

Because you’re quite right, Emily, it’s talked about all the time. People can get themselves into knots, they can trip up, they can not think it through, they have knee-jerk reactions, and then you end up with tokenism. 

And I just think the whole issue of diversity is one that sometimes people get quite afraid to tackle and talk about, because it can be emotionally quite a charged topic. 

So I haven’t quite addressed your question just yet, but I’m talking about it a little bit because I’ve worked with charities, and they’ve said to me, diversity is really important. And so I say, well, why? 

And sometimes people have really thought it through and they’ve said, look, this is crazy. We’re working with a particular group of individuals and our entire board is stale, pale and male. And that can’t be right. That’s absolutely not right. 

But other times people have just not discussed it. They’ve reacted to whatever is going on in the wider world. So whether it be the murder of George Floyd, whether it be other issues that are going on. People sometimes react without really giving it careful consideration. 

So I think you’ve got to understand why do we want diversity on the board? That’s the first thing I would say. There’s got to be a business case for it. And there’s a lack of hard data on this. A lot of it is anecdotal. People keep saying go back to McKinsey and look at their reports about the impact of diverse organisations.

And it’s true in commerce. If you’ve got a better gender mix, you tend to have something like a 15 per cent more effective organisation. If you’ve got an ethnic diverse mix, it’s something like 36 per cent. Don’t quote me on the exact statistics. 

There’s been lots of other reviews done that suggest diverse boards do make better decisions. But there’s a lack of real hard data on it. Maybe you’ve seen it. I certainly haven’t. 

So there’s a business case. There’s a moral case. There’s a credibility case. I was working with a charity whose main funder was a very large government department and the charity itself was working with a whole raft of different people in our country.

And yet the entire board was made up of Etonians, and it was a certain type of individual and the chair just didn’t understand and didn’t want to. But to me, that’s really obvious. You’ve got to change. 

So I don’t know if I’ve just addressed the question of why, but I do think it needs careful consideration. And I think a lot of people jump straight in and say, we’ve got to diversify the board and they haven’t really thought through the reasons for doing it.

Emily B: And if you’ve carefully established your why, do you have any practical advice on how you then begin to go about with the how?

Ian: Yeah. There’s lots of things you can do.

So I think the first thing is, and we’ve got to remember there’s 160,000-odd charities, most are tiny. Most are under £100,000 a year. So we can sit here and talk about bringing in EDI consultants and do this and do that. Most charities, it’s hand to mouth. And so the practical things you can do, you’ve really got to do yourself.

But I think make sure you understand how do we recruit in the first place. Think about the way that you write your copy. And we talked earlier about things such as, are you saying you’ve got to have a degree or you’ve got to have all this senior experience? Think about who’s reading this.

So if you’re trying to attract people from perhaps a different socioeconomic background, I think there’s a view that trusteeship is a bit elitist. It’s potentially a bit classist. So just be careful of the way you phrase your words. Think about putting the copy through a decoder, perhaps a gender decoder.

So you might say we’re looking for a chairman. Maybe you are, but maybe you could call it a chair. I know some people say that’s a noun and I’m with two journalists here, so you’ll probably have strict views on whether that’s appropriate or not. But again, it’s thinking about your language. 

Emily B: We use “chair” at Third Sector, just as an aside.

Ian: Okay. Chair it is. So think about the language. I think that’s really important. 

Think about where you’re promoting these opportunities. And I would say 10 years ago, actually it was really difficult before you had social media in the way it is, before you had lots of platforms; not only Trustees Unlimited, but there are others, it was quite hard. 

But now there’s no excuse for either zero cost or very minimal cost promoting your vacancy far and wide.

You’ve got organisations such as the Young Trustees Movement who have LinkedIn groups, you can post your vacancies there. There are all sorts of things you can do, but it just requires a bit of thought and planning. 

And I think when it comes to trustee recruitment, you’ve got to project plan. You can’t just rock up and say, let’s stick an advert. You’ve got to think it through all the milestones, be able to track how it’s going. But people are out there. People want to engage. 

Lucinda: How have you seen it work? Does it tend to be more a case of a charity puts out an advert and people respond to it, or is there trustee headhunting going on?

Ian: It’s a bit of both. So it comes down to my point earlier about the size of the sector. Most charities cannot afford headhunting. It’s just the fact of the matter. If you headhunt, you’re going to get a better outcome for sure. And probably half of our work is headhunting and half is not. 

People come to us for headhunting because the reality is most people aren’t sitting looking at websites for their next trustee role or their first trustee role. Some of the best candidates are tapped on the shoulder. 

As someone said to me the other day, they’re tickled and that gets them all excited about the opportunity. And if you can afford it, I think you should do it. 

Some roles are very niche. We’ve just done a piece of work for a charity called Crustacean Compassion. I’d never heard of them. It’s all about how you look after decapods. So lobsters need to be treated humanely. Crabs, I think. Prawns are decapods anyway. My understanding of crustaceans is not great. 

But they were looking for a chair and they needed someone with marine biology, animal welfare, board experience. 

With the best will in the world, you could stick an advert in every broadsheet, every newspaper, and you’re still not going to get anyone. You need someone like us or someone else to identify who those people are and tickle them and say, look, this is a great opportunity. 

Lucinda: So for those charities who don’t have the budget for a professional tickler such as you, do you have any tips on how they can do it themselves in terms of reaching out to the types of groups that they would like to see on their trustee board or the type of profile of person? 

Ian: Yeah. So once you’ve identified who it is you’re looking for, it’s almost like concentric circles. Start with your personal connections. Who do we know? Who’s in our membership? Do we have a newsletter? 

Sometimes I’ve worked with charities and they’ve almost forgotten to connect with their own community. And they’ve come straight to us and we say, no, but let’s also run this in parallel. So communicate with your members, communicate with people in your orbit. 

So that’s the first thing I would say. But then you go out further. And again, it comes down to budgets, but there are places where you can advertise roles for free. I think our website, if you’re a member of NCVO, I think you can advertise for free, if you’re under £1m a year or something. 

We have another technology-enabled solution called SNAP, which is a bit more AI and algorithmic-driven, but again, it doesn’t cost very much. So there are opportunities like that where for very little, you can suddenly start reaching thousands of individuals. 

And then, as I mentioned, you’ve got places like LinkedIn, you’ve got different groups, there are places you can go. But you’ve just got to consider and think it through.

Emily B: And I think as well, just to jump off that, once you have trustees who have been recruited onto your board, I’m sure there’s also then a lot of work that the board has to do to make sure that the environment is a welcoming and an inclusive place as well. 

Because you’re no good if you recruit in a great diverse group of trustees, if then they’re coming into an environment that ultimately can be quite hostile and they end up leaving again after a year or two because they don’t feel that they can either authentically be themselves or authentically express their opinions.

If you are recruiting, you cannot recruit in a diverse way, unless you’re also thinking about how you support and retain your diverse staff and empower them as well. 

Ian: Well, my other company that I work in is a business called Russum, which does a lot of interim management and executive search work. And people can spend tens of thousands recruiting people into their organisation. And the cost of getting it wrong is huge. 

And so you can spend a lot of money, get somebody in, and then they’re gone because you haven’t created the right culture, environment, etc. And I think that’s particularly true when you’re thinking about diverse candidates.

So practical suggestions. This is all quite basic, but have a really good induction. Make sure training is available. Have a buddy to help them. I remember working with a charity and every trustee was in their 70s or 80s, perhaps even older. 

And they said to me, look, we really want to get a young trustee. And I said, this is fantastic, that’s the first thing. Brilliant. But what are you going to do once this person joins? Exactly your point, Emily. 

And they hadn’t really thought it through. So we talked about getting a buddy. We talked about maybe recruiting two young people rather than just one, so there’s a sort of strength in numbers.

You can join other groups. If you’re a chair, you can join the Association of Chairs. And obviously we know about that. So I think there’s things that can be done. But I think sometimes people don’t think about it. 

And the chair can be a real support, checking in first month, second month, how’s it going, any feedback, those social interactions.

I think one of the things we’ve lost with boards is a lot of organisations are meeting virtually and I can understand why that’s more convenient, but I think you lose some of the trust and the bonds and the chemistry and you have suboptimal meetings. 

Lucinda: What are your thoughts on the thorny issue of paying trustees?

Ian: I think it is a thorny issue. Look, governance in the charity sector is what it is. Is it necessarily correctly set up? I have my doubts. 

You have boards that in theory set the culture for an organisation and yet they’re not involved on a day-to-day basis. So you get an in-built disconnect between the executive team and the board that both parties have to work very hard to manage.

Whereas with an executive board, paid non-execs in commercial organisations, they are often much more involved. So that’s just a side point, but I think it’s related. 

I think there’s a broader issue about how do you encourage, we’ve talked about diversity quite a bit, how do you encourage a single mother on a low salary to be a trustee if you’re not going to pay her? 

Well, there are certain things you can do. You can pay for childcare. You can make sure that expenses are paid. I’ve always said to the boards that I’ve chaired, governance has a cost and you should claim your travel expenses. And I think you should do that. Even if you don’t need to, you should, and then Gift Aid it back to the charity if you want to. 

Governance has a cost. I’m very wary of accounts when you read them and the governance costs are nil. That can’t be right. So I think you’ve got to make provisions for people. 

Younger people, I can see an argument for paying them for sure. I think the problem is you end up with a two-tier board and there was one where the chair was paid £10,000 and the trustees were not paid anything.

Everything in me, all my spider senses were tingling that this is just not right, that can’t be right. So I think either you pay all or you pay none, but you absolutely make provision for people that can’t afford to do it. And give them every opportunity. 

But again panning out, I think there’s a bigger question around the governance model and whether it’s the right thing. Different people have different views on that. There are lots of theories about how you might remodel it. But yeah, I don’t know what the answer is. 

Lucinda: Do you think there are any downsides to paying trustees at all in terms of how it might affect the voluntary spirit of what it is that they’re doing?

Ian: I think that’s a huge consideration. We run a programme called Step On Board, which we started with Barclays about 10 years ago, so when Anthony Jenkins was their CEO, he asked one of my associates if we could devise a programme to help his senior team become trustees. 

And so we rocked up and we did it with NCVO, actually. And we created a programme that’s been amazingly successful. And we still work with Barclays and we’re working with 20 other firms like KPMG and EY, Deloitte and others, and Google. 

And one of the things we say to the participants of those programmes is why do you want to be a trustee? And what we’re looking for is first and foremost, the thing we talked about earlier, which is that emotional connection, that sense of altruism. 

Now we wouldn’t be living in the real world if there wasn’t also a bit of, well, this could also be quite helpful and maybe one day I’ll want to have a non-exec career, and this is a stepping stone. 

But one has to be subverted to the other. And I think the overarching thing has to be, I want to do some good with the skills that I have. And I think if you just pay people, you will inevitably end up with people doing it because they’re getting paid and not so much because of the cause. 

Not in all cases, but I think that’s a big risk. And so I think you flip that switch, but the unintended consequences could be quite big.

Lucinda: Tricky one.

Emily B: Brilliant. And so, of course, now we’re coming to the end of 2023. 2024 is lining up to be a very busy year with a general election, the many other pressures going on in wider society. 

But when it comes to trustees, trustee recruitment and governance, are there any key trends that you’re anticipating we will see in 2024? 

Ian: So that’s a really big question because, look, I’m an amazing fan of charities. I have devoted my entire career to working with charities, whether it be in a charity, whether it be working in commercial businesses with charities, whether it be on boards. 

And long after we’re all dead and gone, charities will continue to exist and thank God for that. They’ll be helping the most marginalised, disenfranchised people in our communities and animals and even lobsters. It’s incredible what charities do. 

So there will always be a need for charity trustees. And the trustees are the custodians of this wonderful tradition of trusteeship. And in fact, I think the word trustee, it’s all steeped in Elizabethan statute law, but as a trustee, you are trusted with the gifts of a benefactor for the beneficiaries. 

And so I love that: you’re trusted, it’s wonderful. So the first thing to say is trustees will always be needed.

However, I think there are some issues we need to be mindful of. So one is, there’s some risk in being a trustee, and we’ve seen issues around the Captain Tom Foundation, we’ve seen issues around Kids Company, thank God the judge was so sensible and wonderful, but that could have gone another way, and it could have been disastrous.

And so I think if you work in a highly regulated industry, if you are a lawyer, if you are an accountant, some people are thinking twice about becoming trustees because of the risks involved, and I think that’s a terrible thing. 

You should consider the risks, but you should recognise that you’re a volunteer seeking to make the world a better place, and you shouldn’t be put off by a fear of litigation. But I see that increasingly people are wary. 

I think there’s a second thing about the general perception of charities. And there’s much more scrutiny, both from the regulator, from the public, from the press, I think from everybody. 

And so charities are not trusted in the way that perhaps they were in the past. And again, I think that’s a terrible shame because you only hear about the bad stories. And most of my work on the Russam side is with charities that are in problems. 

So I see often the underbelly and the challenges. And I have to remind myself that actually most charities are incredible and they’re working in small local communities and they’re doing things that no one will ever know about, but they are changing and sometimes saving lives. But we don’t hear that. So there’s the perception I think that’s putting people off. 

One thing I do see with trustee recruitment is you get trends. So you get a period where everyone’s after an accountant and then it drops. Then you get everyone looking for marcomms people. 

What I’m seeing now is people want people with fundraising experience. And I have to say to charities, you’ve got to be realistic. There’s a dearth, I think, of really excellent fundraisers at the strategic level who have the capacity and time to volunteer for your charity. And they’re probably going to be conflicted anyway. 

But that’s increasingly something that people are looking for. So yeah, a few thoughts. 

Emily B: Amazing. So much there to unpack. Well, Ian, thank you so much for being with us today. 

Ian: It’s a pleasure. It was great. I really enjoyed it.

Emily B: Well that’s it for this week. The full Third Sector team will be on the microphone next week for our final episode of 2023. I can’t believe it’s already here. And we’ll be taking a look back over the past year with a much-needed dose of festive cheer. 

Lucinda: Please do join us for that. But until then, thank you to today’s guest, Ian Joseph, and our producer Nav Pal.

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