To celebrate Trustees Week we interviewed Julie Hutchison TEP, Charities Specialist (@JulieKHutchison) at Standard Life Wealth, about the new online training for trustees that she has developed with STEP. 

  1. What problem is your new online trustee training aiming to solve?

The Informed Trustee has a focus on easy access, centred on the user.  Face-to-face training and seminars absolutely have a wider role beyond the course, but they can also exclude individuals who cannot attend during work hours, who may be geographically remote, or who are parents/have caring responsibilities.  Being able to access a trustee training course on your laptop, tablet or phone, and being able to ‘dip in and out’ as time allows, is a more flexible approach and could enable a broader audience to engage with trustee training at a time and location which suits the individual.

  1. What role do you think digital skills play on boards?

Digital skills are ever more vital, because digital is now a key enabler (and risk) for charities.  Whether it’s online fundraising, new CRM systems, cyber fraud risk, data protection issues or social media, there is no escaping digital and this area is only going to become more important for charities (and charity trustees).

  1. Is a digital trustee the answer and if so how can we attract more of them?

I am always slightly cautious when I see adverts for a specifically named trustee, such as finance or fundraising, and I would have the same caution with the idea of recruiting just a single “Digital Trustee” for a board.  I can see it might help target recruitment, but it also has the effect of making it appear that only one trustee has any responsibility for this area.  Boards should operate with collective responsibility.

  1. How can we make trustee boards more diverse?

We need a new approach to trustee recruitment.  A report from the charity Getting on Board in May 2017 pointed to over 90% of trustee roles being filled via word-of-mouth and existing networks.  If fewer than 10% of trustee roles are advertised, this is a concern in terms of accessing opportunities.  There’s also an issue with charity boards and gender imbalance, as identified by the Charity Commission’s response to the report just out called “Taken on Trust: the Awareness and Effectiveness of Charity Trustees in England and Wales” which says trustees “are disproportionately older, highly educated and white; men outnumber women by two to one.”  By offering a new pathway to trusteeship, through easy online access to charity trustee training, new entrants to the sector can be encouraged to step forward and apply for roles.  However, recruitment methods also need to change in order to make boards more diverse.

  1. Finally, what do you think charity boards in 2027 will look like?

That very much depends on what changes can be made in the next few years.  If nothing changes in terms of recruitment methods, then just as our population is ageing, boards could reflect that demographic too.  An alternative view depends on initiatives being put in place to change the current norms, which in turn reduce the average of a trustee below the current average age of 59.  I prefer a positive view which says things can change, and charity boards can become more representative of the communities they support.

Take a look at The Informed Trustee