Being a charity’s trustee has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career, and certainly one of the best for developing my professional skills. Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t take up a role earlier on. Perhaps it was the same factors which mean only 2 per cent of trustees are aged 18-40, despite making up 27 per cent of the population.
I have worked alongside young trustees on different charity boards and always valued the different approach they provided, yet few charity boards in the UK experience the benefits of young blood. Indeed, when asked by the Charity Commission, less than 5 per cent of under-30s were aware that trusteeship can be a way to support a charity.
In 2014, Close Brothers Asset Management has set out to find a way to rectify this. We support a broad range of charities and charitable trusts and recognise the significant responsibilities placed on – and the impact made by – talented trustees. The Close Brothers Trustee Leadership Programme marries the energy of our younger staff members with that deep held corporate commitment to philanthropy.
Our programme is a series of six modules for 50 young professionals from a wide range of backgrounds, giving them the skills they need to feel confident in taking up a trustee role. The sessions will cover:
> Module 1 – An Overview of the Charity Sector and Importance of Trustees
> Module 2 – Roles & Responsibilities Part 1: Governance & Strategic Planning
> Module 3 – Roles & Responsibilities Part 2: Financial Management
> Module 4 – An Introduction to Fundraising
> Module 5 – How to Be an Effective Board Member
> Module 6 – How to Become a Charity Trustee
The programme is being delivered in conjunction with social business Cause4, a company which specialises in supporting charities and social enterprises. Cause4 was recently named in the Silicon Valley 100 Club as one of 100 UK businesses with high investment potential.
But why do charities need young trustees? Well, because including them means that a charity can benefit from:
> fresh approaches to challenges faced;
> the security of a plan for leadership succession;
> diversity of opinions and contribution.
Not long ago, I had a trustee of a national charity dating back to the mid-nineteenth century approach me with a surprising problem.
Rather than being short of funds, his charity was struggling with the opposite: finding beneficiaries to give their money to. When I presented the problem to a graduate from my team, it only took a five-minute internet search for them to come up with a solution: a total revamp of the charity’s web presence. A young eye could immediately tell that this charity was not fit for the digital age.
When it comes to succession planning, nurturing younger trustees ensures that the next generation of leadership is provided for. Young people will be the future face of the charity sector and should be given the opportunity to train on the job much earlier than is currently the case. A fresh and young outlook on a board would be very welcome.
Having young people involved with governance is part of a wider objective to make boards more diverse. A diverse board is more likely to contain a broader range of skills, knowledge and experience than one which is narrowly based. It will also be much fairer and accountable.
Getting more young people involved is not going to happen overnight. The most convincing method will be when they find their peers sitting on boards and contributing to charitable governance. We hope that the 50 young professionals enrolled in the Close Brothers Trustee Leadership Programme will be ambassadors for change.
Penny Lovell is head of client services at Close Brothers Asset Management