Trustee recruitment for Wessex Museums

Trustee recruitment is an ongoing challenge throughout the museums and arts sector. Here is how Wessex Museums ran a successful recruitment campaign. 

Wessex Museums first attempted to recruit new trustees to its board at the end of 2018. We were wholly unsuccessful, having only one applicant who lived in Texas USA! As with most small charities we had no money to invest in this, but by our constitution needed to fill the spaces. The following year, we tried a new approach – and have since recruited three dynamic new trustees.

Here, Becky Sharp, Wessex Museums Fundraising Manager, outlines how we shaped our new trustee recruitment programme.

Trying to find trustees with the right experience, skills set and commitment is hard enough – but we are also expecting them to give quality time for free.

In addition, when we began our recruitment campaign in 2018, these were some of the challenges within the charities sector:

  • Over half of the UK’s 200,000 charities have a trustee vacancy or would consider an addition to their board
  • Average age of a trustee is 57
  • Only 0.5% of trustees are aged 18-24
  • 43.4% of trustees are women and 56.6% are men
  • 74% of charities find trustee recruitment difficult

When we first attempted to recruit trustees, we knew exactly what we were looking for (a skills audit had revealed the gaps in experience on the board and the expertise that we needed to bring into the mix). But all our marketing focus was on that – what we needed, rather than what we could offer to potential trustees. We advertised on Arts and Museum specific job boards but didn’t venture wider than that.


After our first unsuccessful recruitment drive, we decided to have another shot in spring 2019, but shook things up a little. We thought about it from the volunteers’ perspective – why would they want to do it? What’s in it for them? We focused the advert on what the applicant would get out of the role rather than what we wanted. This included:

  • Being part of a dynamic and innovative museums partnership
  • Developing skills in new areas
  • Building a network of contacts in the arts and heritage sector
  • Gaining experience in strategic planning
  • Being part of promoting culture in the South West
  • Being involved in the planning of exciting art and exhibition programmes across four museums
  • Using their experience to give something back to the community

Download Trustee Advert

We also considered where to advertise. We decided to continue with free adverts only, but utilised each of our partner’s websites and social media, sent out the advert to local voluntary and business groups, and asked them to send to their members. We also sought out and attended a number of business networking events and used a personal approach to advertise the roles and increase awareness of the charity.

I’ve always been interested in history, and appreciate the way that museums link us to our past. I’ve lived in Wiltshire for some years now so have a vested interest in the area and when I heard Wessex Museums were looking for trustees I thought it would be good to get involved. I thought I could help the organisation move forward with its ambitions, and it could help me widen my knowledge about local history and culture.”

Glyn Coy, Trustee Financial Lead, Wessex Museums

Before we placed any adverts, we did the following groundwork:

  • Skills audit – to identify what expertise we needed to complement the skills of the existing trustees
  • Constitution – checked to see the minimum and maximum number of trustees needed for the charity
  • Diversity – as well as considering skills, we looked at how we could diversify the board to bring new voices, backgrounds and perspectives
  • Define the roles – identifying exactly what the role of the trustees would be
  • Role pack – we created this to include the trustees advert, the role profiles and background information on Wessex Museums.

Trustee Skills Audit

Role Profile Trustee

Once we had prepared the necessary materials, we researched free places to advertise. Then we networked like our lives depended on it! We searched out every avenue available to us, which included:

  •  Free websites e.g. Charity jobs, Women on Boards
  • Specialist sites for the museum sector e.g. Museums Jobs Desk, Arts Jobs, AIM
  • Events e.g. Private views that were planned to take place during the recruitment period
  • Internal networks – via trustees, staff, friends
  • External – local corporate networking meetings, general meetings
  • Social media

“The recruitment process started with me reading an advert on the social media feed of one of the partner museums. The role seemed to be a good fit based on my background and interests so I was keen to find out more.”

Glyn Coy, Trustee Financial Lead, Wessex Museums

  • Be professional and polite!
  • Shortlisting – get the board involved
  • Interviews – structured but not too formal, involving at least two trustees
  • Successful and unsuccessful candidates – inform both as you would for a paid role
  • Don’t rush…..we extended the deadline for our applications as it was delayed in going up on some websites
  • But…we emailed each applicant to confirm receipt and give an idea on time-frames
  • After shortlisting (each current trustee did this) we then invited four candidates to interview
  • The interviews involved the chair, one trustee and a key staff member
  • We invited the two successful candidates to come and experience a board meeting

“The interview was well structured and a very positive experience from my side. The Trust was able to understand the ways that I could help them and I was able to get a good insight into what Wessex Museums is all about.”

Glyn Coy, Trustee Financial Lead, Wessex Museums

Once you have made the decision of who you are inviting to become a trustee it is important to provide a formal induction into your organisation.

  • Invite preferred candidate(s) to a board meeting – they can try before they buy, and so can you
  • Take up references
  • Induction plan
    • Charity Commission Guidance ‘The Essential Trustee’
    • Charity Governance Code
    • Constitution
    • Business Plan/strategy
    • Latest accounts
    • Contact details for other trustees and key members of staff
    • Meeting with key members of staff
    • Discussion of any key training needs

“It is the Trust’s focus on the engagement of all that attracted me to the post of trustee.  By supporting museums in telling the story of Wessex, past, present and future through the collaboration of first class curatorial expertise, and the involvement of the people of Dorset and Wiltshire, the Trust ensures that this rich history is told by many voices and enjoyed by all.”

Julia Findlater, Chair of Wessex Museums Trust

For more information please contact:

Becky Sharp, Fundraising Manager, Wessex Museums 

[email protected]





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