There is an issue bubbling away, affecting society in ways that most of us young ‘uns either don’t know about, care about, or feel helpless to change: a bit like Brexit. The issue is that, as shown by Charity Commission research, the majority of trustees are older white men.
Why is this an issue? Because having everyone from the same demographic narrows the types of skills, experiences and attitudes each person brings to the table. This means that the leadership of 3rd sector organisations doesn’t always reflect the end-users, creating a cognitive dissonance between what users need and where trustees lead.
So here is a quickfire basic guide to becoming a young trustee, young here being subjective but I’m focusing on late teens to mid twenties.
What is a trustee?
Trustees are the non-executive directors of charities.
What do trustees do?
Trustees decide the strategical direction of a charity.
What is the time commitment?
This varies between charities, but between 10-20 hours a year. This comes from 1-2 hour quarterly board meetings, a couple of hours reading through materials before meetings, an AGM, and going to a few functions to represent the charity and meet others, often over a glass of wine.
Why would a charity want me as a trustee?
- A) Because you’re all lovely people.
- B) You’ll introduce new ideas and fight group think.
- C) Just by being born after 1990, you have a skillset different to a lot of older people.
- D) Young people are the future.
Why would I want to be a young trustee?
You’ll learn what it takes to be a non-executive director of an organisation, have an opportunity to change society in a way you see as being positive, meet interesting people from a variety of backgrounds, act on your fiduciary duty to society. Whether you love dogs and want to save them all; or you want an accurate model of the Scottish rail network, there’s a charity for you!
What now? If you’re interested in becoming a trustee here are some useful links.
- Inspiring Scotland’s CEO, Elaine Crichton, is becoming a champion for creating more diverse boards in Scotland. This page shows trustee opportunities in Scotland and the wider website has a lot of useful information.
- ‘The Resilient Director’ is a book which is easy to dip in and out of. One issue young people seem to have is a lack of confidence in their abilities, which is nonsense. This book will help you understand how you can be a good director.
- The Scottish charity regulator’s definitive guide to being a trustee
- A report on a 2015 cross-party investigation into getting young people more involved in charities. Part of this focusses on young trustees.
So, to wrap up, I hope you’re considering becoming a young trustee – it’s great for charities, many of whom are desperate for diverse trustees, and it’ll be good for you, your experience and your confidence too.