Home-Start West Lothian is on the hunt for young trustees. Manager Allie Cherry-Byrnes explains why she is using Trustees’ Week to step up her search.

Allie Cheery-Byrnes photoOnly 2.1% of trustees in Scotland are under 30 and for many local Home-Start Boards the age of trustees is closer to the UK average of 61. Meanwhile, the majority of parents we work with are in their twenties and thirties. We need to end this disconnect between the young families we serve and the trustees who keep our charities on track. Most importantly we need to get better at bringing parents we’ve supported into governance roles – no one is better placed to keep our charity focused on what matters.

In theory it should be easy. 85% of people under 35 are reportedly interested in joining a board or management committee. What is stopping us from tapping into this younger pool of talent?

I think it’s possible that existing board members are underestimating the contribution which younger Trustees can make to an organisation.

Age should never be the deciding factor when it comes to recruiting new trustees but diversity does matter. More crucial still is their understanding of, enthusiasm for and commitment to the purpose and ethos of the organisation, along with relevant skills, knowledge and experience.

Having a board with a good mix of skills, experience and perspective is essential to achieving good governance. By appointing younger trustees onto boards, charities are likely to be bringing a different outlook to the table which can help challenge dominant perceptions. In short, greater age diversity on Boards can really help us ensure we haven’t missed a trick when it comes to meeting the needs of local families.

Being a trustee carries a daunting set of responsibilities and the idea of being on a Board of Directors, as all our trustees are, can be intimidating no matter what age you are. We need to simplify the language we use around what a trustee does and the contribution they are expected to make and ensure that new recruits feel well-supported. I’ve started using the term “management committee”, especially when I’m talking to people, such as parents we’ve supported, who are unlikely to have the same levels of confidence as an experienced trustee. When I do that it instantly becomes less scary and people realise that they already have a lot of the skills we are looking for.

By demystifying the role, I think we’ll end up with a much more diverse group of people on our boards, each bringing a unique set of skills and a wealth of experience to the role, to support the work we do.

If you want to volunteer with Home-Start, as a trustee or in any other role, you can find your local Home-Start. To talk about volunteering with Home-Start West Lothian call Allie on 01506 415755