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Trustee development

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Trustee board skills and qualities

An effective board of trustees should be able to draw on a diverse range of skills, knowledge, qualities and experience to help it fulfill its roles. These might include:

  • ‘hard’ skills such as legal or financial knowledge
  • ‘soft’ skills such as team working or negotiation
  • knowledge of the community or services the organisation provides.

Trustees act collectively to fulfil their duties. All trustees should be able to demonstrate they meet certain key qualities, including to:

  • Be committed to the purpose, objects and values of the organisation.
  • Be constructive about other trustees’ opinions in discussions, and in response to staff members’ contributions at meetings.
  • Be able to act reasonably and responsibly when undertaking such duties and performing tasks.
  • Be able to maintain confidentiality on sensitive and confidential information.
  • Be supportive of the values (and ethics) of the organisation.
  • Understand the importance and purpose of meetings, and be committed to preparing for them adequately and attending them regularly.
  • Be able to analyse information and, when necessary, challenge constructively.
  • Be able to make collective decisions and stand by them.
  • Be able to respect boundaries between executive (staff or day to day) and governance function.

Identifying skills

A trustee board can identify the skills, knowledge, qualities and experience each trustee brings by carrying out a 'skills audit'.

NCVO members can download a sample skills audit to adapt for your organisation from our Tools and Resources section.

Alternatively, our Studyzone course on trustee recruitment and induction comes with a host of downloadable templates, questionnaires and checklists to help you get the best people on your board.

Buy this course from as little as £8.99 now or it is free for NCVO members.

A skills audit is a systematic way of collecting information about the attributes of each trustee and avoids making assumptions about why a trustee has joined the board and what they can offer.

This can help identify gaps for future trustee board recruitment.

Skills audits can also help trustees identify gaps in their own knowledge and can help the board plan future learning and training opportunities for trustees and identify when professional advice is going to be needed.

Developing skills

Each trustee will have different support and development needs and will want to meet those needs in different ways. Support, development and training can involve:

  • Workshops, conferences or training courses on different aspects of a trustees’ role. 
  • Training, briefings or update sessions at board meetings or at an away day.
  • Reading books and online guidance – for example,  NCVO's Good Trustee Guide.
  • Online learning course - for example NCVO's Studyzone (free for members)
  • Meeting with trustees from other charities – for example, by joining a trustee network
  • Arranging for new trustees to be mentored by existing trustees.

Skills audit or appraisals can help trustees identify their support needs.

Further information

If you’re a trustee or work with a governance board you may be interested in the NCVO/BWB Trustee Conference in November. It’s the leading annual event for charity trustees, and provides essential legal and regulatory updates on governance as well as practical tools and guidance in a range of expert-led breakout sessions.

Page last edited Jul 30, 2018

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