In my experience an organisation always benefits from having a diversified trustee board. In the simplest terms, you get different views, a wider perspective while discussing issues at meetings and the benefit of a range of different personal experiences. A while ago I joined a board whose trustees were all about 70 years old, white, and from an affluent economic and professional background. It was a great learning experience for all of us – I was surprised how welcoming they were to me, and they frequently sought my views on subjects, as I could provide a different perspective.
However, there was one significant problem. The trustee meetings were held at 10am on a working day, and to attend them I had to take a day off work, which I couldn’t afford to do. I wanted to stay on the board and pointed out that the meeting time was a major barrier for many younger people who might be interested in becoming a trustee but were employed full time or self-employed. The trustees were keen that I should remain a trustee, and also to attract new people to the board so agreed to change the meeting time, which made a huge difference. By the time, I left the board after four years, they had two more “different” people. I believe that as a result the board is younger, more vibrant and that all the trustees are enjoying the work they do for the charity.
This was also published in the first of a series of short pieces in e-newsletter August 2008 published by Charity Trustees Network where I shared my experience as a trustee.