Last updated: 4th Nov 2021

Hiring a trustee with lived experience

Trustee boards recruit new members in many ways. However formal or informal the process, potential trustees must be able to find out about the role to decide if they are interested in it.

This may take some thought if you are aiming to attract a more diverse group of candidates than you have in the past, and particularly if you want to bring it to the attention of people with lived experience. They may not access the communication channels you rely on, or be linked in to your networks.

Assess your hiring needs

But before thinking about how to advertise the role, you need to decide exactly what you are looking for in your new trustee/s. As well as expertise through lived experience:

  • What skills and competencies are you looking for - have you carried out a skills gap analysis? 
  • Does the trustee need to live locally or are you looking nationally? 
  • What other factors do you need to consider in order to achieve as much diversity as possible on your board, for example gender, sexuality, faith group etc.?

Creating an application pack

Once you are clear on these issues, it really helps potential candidates if you put together an application pack. Based on our research we suggest that the pack includes the following information: 

  • Structure of the trustee board and existing members
  • Role description, what the trustee will be expected to do
  • Skills and competencies you are looking for
  • Time commitment and how long the role will last
  • Support package and other resources provided
  • Training, opportunities and benefits available 
  • Remuneration and expenses policy
  • Application process and guidance 
  • Who to contact for clarification about the role
  • Suggested resources for people to follow up to find out more about what trustees do, such as websites and audio-visual materials

The application pack needs to be clear and accessible to a wide range of readers, so it will help if it's written in plain English. In the online version you could use audio/visual materials to make it more engaging. 

Raising awareness for the role

You could think about holding an open day or other event at your organisation to raise awareness about the role, give service users and volunteers the chance to find out more about the organisation, and introduce the trustee board.

People often don’t know much about the role of a trustee and may feel anxious about putting themselves forward if they don’t know what they can contribute or what will be expected of them. You could find creative and engaging ways to share the information contained in the application pack and make time to answer people’s questions. Meeting other trustees and finding out about the role from them directly will help to reassure people, especially if they share positive experiences and give some encouragement! 

Advertise the role

You will need to think creatively about where to advertise your trustee role, making sure you reach out beyond your own networks and think about the communication channels your target audiences use. You could post the advert on social media channels, advertise via community groups and volunteer networks and use existing Experts by Experience platforms.

It will help if you consult with people who are part of your target communities to find out what communication channels they use. From our research we found that most people found out about the trustee role they applied for by word of mouth, including from staff in the organisation where they were a service user or volunteer, who encouraged or invited them to apply. 

Encourage people to apply

When thinking about how to advertise and promote your trustee role, it may be helpful to know what motivates the Experts by Experience we spoke to.

They said that through training on mental health issues they had learned about the importance of work and of helping others for their well being and sense of fulfillment. They said if people are prevented from working, volunteering can fill this gap. 

“I had to make myself commit, I knew it was important for my mental health”

The Experts also spoke about their commitment to finding strategic solutions to the problems they had faced, such as destitution and homelessness. They recognise the importance of motivating others to get involved through their example. 

“I think if members see that one of them is in the position of chair, they will be encouraged to be involved.”

They told us that it is important for them to know how their skills and experience would apply to the trustee role and how they could help. They said Experts by Experience do not want to be limited to the role of ‘someone with lived experience’ or known only by this label. They hope to bring insights about the experiences of people seeking asylum, but do not want to be seen as community representatives or the voice of all people with lived experience of a particular issue. 

As well as benefits to their mental health and well being and the satisfaction of contributing their expertise for the benefit of their peers, other tangible gains were also important motivating factors for the Experts we spoke to. For example building their confidence and access to training, experience and networks that would improve their employment prospects.

“I want to make a change and give myself a go, voice others, utilise my skills and knowledge, I was convinced to go on because I wanted to do something special while I am in maternity.”


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