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Building your board

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Who to include on your board or management committee

Building an effective team of board members or trustees is an essential part of creating your organisation. These people will become crucial to the success of the organisation and it is important that you bring together people who can work together well and have the same level of comittment and expectations.

Recruiting board members

As with recruiting for any position, you should draw up a job description, person specification and guide to the legal responsibilities of the role.

If you don't already have people in mind, there are lots of different ways to find a trustee.

It's a good idea to consider diversity before you start recruiting.  Ideally you want a board that is made up of different types of people with different ideas to contribute and who can identify with your charity's beneficiaries. You also need to take into account the skills required. Don't just appoint a person because they have offered to support you, as useful as they may be. Think about the skills already available and where the gaps are. For instance if you are employing staff do you have someone with HR experience on the board or if you are looking at external funding (grants, commissioning etc) do you have an experinced book keeper?

Involving stakeholders

A stakeholder is any individual or group that is affected by, or can influence, decisions or actions taken by your organisation. Some common examples of stakeholders are:

  • employees
  • members of the organisation
  • investors/grant makers/lenders
  • customers/service users and families
  • the local community
  • local voluntary organisations
  • the local authority
  • beneficiaries
  • regulators.

Many charities, social enterprise and co-operatives have stakeholders on their boards.  Indeed, the Charity Commission encourages this because of the benefits they can bring.  However, the charity board members are under a legal duty to act only in the interests of the charity.  They cannot make their decisions based on:

  • their own personal interest; or
  • their relations with, or loyalty to, another person or organisation.

From time to time board members may find themselves in a situation where the interests of their organisation coincide with their own personal interest, or the interests of another person or organisations with which they have links .  This situation is called a conflict of interest.

A conflict of interest automatically exists in the case of most stakeholders who are board members.  For example, a board member who is a service user of the charity has a personal interest in the activities of the charity.  Conflicts of interest can also arise with board members appointed by a local council with financial or other links with the charity, social enterprise or co-operative.

Examples of ways to manage conflicts of interest include:

  • keeping a register of board members' interests
  • having board members declare any conflict of interest that may arise
  • having those board members with a conflict of interest leave the board meeting at which the matter is discussed and not taking part in the vote.
  • having only a minority of board members who are also service users/beneficiaries

If conflicts of interest are not properly managed, the decisions of the board may be invalid.  If the organisation is a charity, the Charity Commission may also argue that the failure to properly manage conflicts of interest means that the organisation is not demonstrating sufficiently clearly that is run for public rather than private benefit.

Page last edited Apr 05, 2016

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