As Trustee Week begins, it’s important that in addition to recognising the great work that trustees do across the UK, we also look to get more people from different backgrounds involved with charities as trustees. There is a particular problem with regards to the under-representation of young people in trustee positions, which is something that we (CAF) are trying to address following the recommendations from the Growing Giving Parliamentary Inquiry’s ‘Creating an Age of Giving’ report.
Research conducted in 2010 discovered that 18-24 year olds make up less than one per cent of all trustees, even though they account for 12 per cent of the population as a whole. In addition, the average age of a trustee is 57, and over two-thirds of trustees are aged 50+.
This is a major problem for two reasons.
Firstly, young people miss out on opportunities that can help them develop. Trustees are involved in areas such as strategy development, budgeting and organisational oversight, which are important skills that can help to boost a young person’s future career and prospects. But it also gives them a position of authority and the chance to influence the direction that a cause close to their heart is taking, and the involvement of more young trustees also helps with the normalisation process, which can then encourage other young people to follow their lead.
Secondly, charities themselves also suffer too if they don’t have young people involved with their governance. Good governance needs the inclusion of a range of different perspectives, and young people can often offer a different viewpoint to their older peers based on their own experiences. Bringing a diverse range of views to the table aids informed decision making, and it’s important that young people are given the chance to be a part of that.
Some charities are wary about appointing a young person to serve as a trustee, fearing that they might not be as well qualified as their older peers. Of course, young people should only become trustees when they are able to operate effectively, and a number of charities have put in place transition programmes that give young people the chance to learn more about what a trustee does before becoming one.
This can include the use of shadowing and mentoring schemes, giving a young person the chance to interact directly with a trustee and to hear about their experience. In addition, watching the work of a trustee beforehand means that a young person can begin their role with a better expectation of what to expect, and can also hopefully work as a spur to encourage them to offer mentoring services to potential young trustees in the future.
But more needs to be done to get other charities to open up their doors to young people, and this needs to include an oversight of why having a young trustee is important. In order to progress activity in this area, CAF has partnered with young trustee Leon Ward (of Plan UK amongst others) to launch the Young Trustee Survey, which is seeking to investigate the experience that young people have when serving as trustees, and how charities can put in place structures to ensure that trustee positions are available to people of all ages.
We want to hear from both young trustees but also those who have worked directly with them – to find our more about what their experience is like, and how it can be improved. We’ll be receiving submissions until the end of the year, and in early 2015 we’ll be producing a publication looking at how we can get more young people involved as trustees.
To find out more and to make your submission you can do so here.