Successfully Recruiting Trustees to Your Board – in Ten Steps


Recruiting new Trustees can be challenging. Experience shows that it is easy to recruit badly, but to recruit well takes time and effort. So, where to start?

Step 1: Touch base

Using your governing document and the web-resources provided by the Charity Commission, pull together an update on what you can/cannot do in terms of recruiting your new Trustee. Eligibility criteria can change, so it is always worth a check.

Step 2: Who is the ideal Trustee for the Museum?

Even if you already know the answer, this is an important moment to step-back and re-think. Regardless of practicalities or gut-feelings, you should approach your recruitment objectively, methodically and openly.

Look at your Board and ask yourself: are we as Trustees currently able to represent the views and needs of the people, for whom we are running this museum? If the answer is no, then recruitment must be guided by addressing this.

This is also the right time to update your Board Skills Audit to check that the skills you have, are in fact what the organisation needs.  Whether you do this in house, or ask your MDO to facilitate, this is a simple way to find out what attributes your new Trustee will need to bring to the Board.

Remember that ‘skills’ do not have to be professional or subject-based skills. They can include competencies in team roles. To have a board full of visionary leaders, and nobody interested in completing and finishing projects is just as problematic as not having marketing or IT skills.

Step 3: Pull together a Trustee Pack

A great Trustee is likely to want to learn more about the organisation before they commit to joining your Board, and even people who have some involvement with the museum, will find it useful to understand what you are looking for from a Trustee. A good Trustee Pack should include:

  • A letter or introduction from the Chair with a brief overview of the purpose of the museum and its collections
  • A copy of your Governing Document
  • A description of your plans for the next years, ideally a Forward or Business Plan
  • The role and responsibility of the prospective Trustee including what skills and time committment are required

Looking at your Trustee Pack, is this the kind of organisation that your ideal Trustee might want to be part of? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you are ready to advertise.

Use the link below to see a good example of what a Trustee Pack could look like:

Download Good_Practice_Example___Trustee_Package_at_W_DM_1.pdf…

Step 4: Write an Advert

It does not have to be long or complicated, but writing and publishing your advert will signal to all your staff, members or stakeholders that recruitment is underway.

The advert should say where people can find out more about the vacancy, who they can discuss Trusteeship with, and how they can apply.

Step 5: Spread the Word

No matter who it is you are looking for, here are the basic, free advertising opportunities that are a ‘must’:

Step 6: Aim for your Target

A broad sweep is often not enough to get the right candidate to apply. That is why the next step should be to focus on where your ideal future Trustee would see your advert.

The best way to target your ideal Trustee is to ask people who are like them for advice. Don’t worry about recruiting them right away, just pick their brains about where best to advertise.

Have you tried something new or unusual to advertise a Trustee Vacancy? Tell us about it so we can share your lessons learnt with others!

Step 7: Reflect

After having advertised for a few weeks, it is a good time to take a pause and reflect: is this working for you? If none of the candidates so far meets your needs, then it is time to re-think. Don’t feel you have to make do. When it comes to recruiting your Trustees it is important to get it right every time!

Step 8: Appoint the best

When you have a good number of candidates, shortlist those who meet your needs best and meet them for an interview. Not only does this give your prospective Trustee the chance to discuss and fall in love with your museum, it also allows you to gauge their motivation and how well they are suited to bringing new skills and ideas to your organisation.

If you are confident you have found the best person, then complete the appointment according to the rules of your governing document. If all is sealed and done, don’t forget to tell everyone. A press release and a note to staff/volunteers introducting their new Trustee should be the minimum.

Step 9: Provide proper induction

No one can be a great Trustee without induction regardless of their talent or commitment. What to include in your induction process must be tailored specifically to your museum – there is no one-size fits all.

Here is what an induction programme may include:

  • A one-to-one meeting with the Chair at which you go through the governing document together to understand the rules under which you operate, and to look through the Annual Accounts to answer any questions
  • A site-visit with a member of staff to understand the operation of the museum, including a look behind the scenes and a chance to meet staff and volunteers
  • Access to the Board archives of minutes, annual account, and briefing documents to enable the new Trustee to read up on aspects to be discussed in forthcoming meeting
  • Copies of all key policies that govern the organisation
  • A copy of the Charity Commission’s guidance ‘The essential Trustee’ including legal requirements and updates

Step 10: Learn and improve

Within a year of appointment, there should be an opportunity for the new Trustee as well as those involved in recruitment to evaluate the process and minute any lessons learnt. What will you do differently next time? Which were the most successful advertising routes?

Before long, this will come in useful to help you improve your next recruitment process.

Good Practice Examples

Looking for practical tips and tricks? Find out how other museums have recruited to their Board:

Weald and Downland Open Air Museum

We are looking for more examples of good practice from museums throughout the South East. This will help inform the advice above and also share practical exoeriences.

Would you be able to share your experience? Please download a template form to tell us about your museum below.


Help us

This web-page introduces approaches, links and tips to help you find the right Trustee for your organisation. It brings together resources available online and expertise gathered by our team. It also looks to evolve with the help of the experience of museums from the South East region, who have recruited successfully to their Boards. As such, this web-page will grow and change over time to continue to be a great place to start your next Trustee Recruitment process.

If you know of a great tip, toolkit, or case study – or you would like to contribute your insights directly, please contact us! We would love to hear from you.

This web-page was designed and included on our website as part of the ‘Diversity Mainstream’ Project. Find out more about how SEMD are supporting museums who embrace diversity at governance level, and how we work together with Arts Council England to make the Creative Case for Diversity.

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