10 million interested in joining the board of a charity, but confusion remains about the role of a trustee

NOVEMBER 7, 2011
POSTED IN: HR STRATEGY & PRACTICE

  • 21% of British adults (10 million[1]) would like to sit on the board of a charity
  • Confusion about trusteeship remains: 51% of people don’t know what a charity trustee is
  • Young person’s game: 18-34’s are more interested in joining the board of a charity (28%) than retirees (15%)

Getting On Board, the charity that promotes board-level volunteering, reveals today that confusion remains about the role of the trustee, despite the high numbers interested in joining the board of a charity. Although 10.2 million people (21%)[1] confirmed they would like to sit on the board of a charity, significantly less (12%) stated interest in becoming a charity trustee – a role with very little fundamental difference. This figure suggests that British people remain unaware of the exact role of the trustee and is confirmed by 51% admitting that they don’t know what a charity trustee is.

The research also found that almost twice the number of 18-34 year olds are interested in joining the board of a charity (28%) as over 55 year olds (15%). This fact directly contradicts any outdated views of trustees as older retired professionals, and this high level of interest will encourage charities to actively recruit younger trustees to their boards.

London emerged from the research as the most charitably inclined location, with three in ten Londoners (29%) interested in joining the board of a charity. Although interest was reflected through the country, the South East and East Midlands saw the lowest level of interest in trusteeship at 16%.

This study was commissioned to mark Trustees Week (31st October – 6th November), the national campaign dedicated to raising awareness of trusteeship. Whilst there are around 800,000 trustees in England and Wales, Charity Commission estimates suggest that almost half of charities have a vacancy on their trustee board.

Sarah Hodgkinson, Chief Executive of Getting on Board, commented on the research: “It’s clear that there is a huge amount of interest in trusteeship – but confusion still remains. Our study shows that over half of the public don’t know what a trustee is – but two in ten would be interested in joining a board. Charities need to work together to ensure that the wider public have a better understanding of what a trustee is, to help take advantage of the broad range of valuable skills available in the private, public and voluntary sectors.”

Dame Suzi Leather, Chair of the Charity Commission, said: “Clearly the charity sector needs to do more to explain what a charity trustee is so that people realise what a fantastic opportunity it can be to make a real difference. Trustees are the driving force behind every great charity and are responsible for making decisions about a charity’s direction and activity. I have met so many trustees who tell me it’s the best thing that they have ever done and would recommend it to others.

“But as well as making a huge contribution to society, trusteeship can bring real benefits the individual. By being on a charity board trustees learn new skills, many of which can help them in other areas of their life. I would particularly encourage charities to consider recruiting as widely as possible for new trustees and to consider young adults in particular – they can add a new perspective to the charity’s work as the donors and volunteers of the future.”

What is a trustee? Trustees and their responsibilities (from the Charity Commission)
Charity trustees are the people who serve on the governing body of a charity. They may be known as trustees, directors, board members, governors or committee members. The principles and main duties are the same in all cases.

(1) Trustees have and must accept ultimate responsibility for directing the affairs of a charity, and ensuring that it is solvent, well-run, and delivering the charitable outcomes for the benefit of the public for which it has been set up.

*2,012 nationally weighted online Interviews were carried out by Opinium Research online from 28th to 31st October 2011. Respondents were asked: ‘Would you be interested in becoming a charity trustee?’ and ‘Would you be interested in joining the board of a charity close to your heart?’

1. 10,22,1960 million calculated as 21% of 48676000 (According to ONS 2009 UK population statistics, there are 48676000 adults in the United Kingdom)

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