I recently went to an event hosted by Blagrave Trust. The event was introducing the funders in the room to a campaign being launched by the Social Change Agency which seeks to double the number of young trustees in the UK.
Sounds ambitious? Well the starting point is low. Taken On Trust research, published by the Charity Commission, shows that 92% of trustees in England are aged between 55 and 64, rising to an average age between 65-74 for trustees of smaller charities. Just 0.5% of trustees are aged between 18 and 24. Younger trustees are vital to ensure that we hear a cross section of perspectives around the board table, too often group think creeps in, enabled by a tendency to draw trustees from one demographic. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of grant making foundations.
At Virgin Money Foundation we know that the people around the table have a huge influence on who gets a piece of the pie, and so we are working to ensure our board is suitably diverse. This year we hope to recruit our first young trustee. We know that it will make us stronger. Over the last two years our youth panel has been in our board meetings, sharing their views on the grant applications under discussion. They make a significant contribution. I have watched them bring perspectives otherwise absent from the board, making observations that are astute, identifying the weakness in a proposal, bringing to life ideas that we otherwise may not have seen the potential of.
As the Social Change Agency point out, charity boards can be the training ground for the board rooms they may be in in their future careers. It is not just training for the young trustee, it is a reminder to the whole board to listen to a breadth of perspective, be challenged, be enquiring and step outside of group think.
Virgin Money Foundation