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Supporting statements for Trustees

Posted on 1/02/2021 by Matt Adams

Handing In Application To Board

Where supporting statements are a part of a Charity’s recruitment process (be that for Board members or for paid work), it is essential to take the time to get this right – many candidates rush this and/or underestimate the importance that recruiting managers in the sector place on this. Understandably, Non-profit organisations want people on their Board who are passionate and committed to their cause, who are aligned to the values and mission of the organisation and of course who will fit the criteria established by the recruitment panel/nominations committee. Despite trustee roles being voluntary positions, these are still competitive recruitment processes – particularly where organisations use search firms, like TPP Recruitment, as they will end up with a much stronger shortlist than if they were purely relying on advertising.

So, when deciding to apply for a Board role, you will need to do research just like you would for any other role to ensure you know enough about the organisation. I strongly recommend visiting their website, finding their strategic plan and annual accounts (on the Charity Commission website if you can’t find on the charity’s website). This will demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in the organisation, their cause and mission.

For the statement itself, I’d recommended you do this in a letter format, and that you address to the current Chair, where possible. I would suggest having three distinct sections:

Section 1 – usually one paragraph – set the scene/introduction:

Start with an introduction and overview of your experience. Highlight the number of years you have in your specific area of expertise, the number of years in executive roles, any experience of working with/or on a Board or committees. If you have any specific qualifications that are relevant to the role, this is also worth mentioning. It’s important to give context to the organisations where you have worked, whether that’s the cause/their purpose, the size (turnover and staff) and what you had responsibility for. Metrics are especially important for individuals with finance and fundraising backgrounds.

Section 2 – multiple paragraphs – sell yourself:

This is where you need demonstrate what you bring to the board and how you meet the criteria for the role. This doesn’t have to be line by line as some elements are hard to demonstrate in an application and will be tested at interview. Speak with the Chair and/or your recruiter as you are preparing your application and find out which elements are key and ensure that you provide evidence for these vital areas. Provide clear examples with details of your achievements including metrics where possible (and relevant). This is about highlighting professional experience but also any wider experience you have as a volunteer or on committees and other boards.

Section 3 – usually one paragraph – your motivation for applying:

In this paragraph you will need to highlight your motivation for applying. I can’t stress the importance of this – where this is lacking there is usually a sense that you’ve submitted a generic application, or that you’ve hastily applied without giving it much thought. As I mentioned above, Board roles are competitive positions, therefore it’s crucial you have a strong supporting statement that stands out from the rest. You will need to give the reason why you are looking to become a Trustee and then mention why you would like to contribute to the mission of this specific organisation. Do you have a personal link to the cause? If so, highlight this. If you have seen the organisation in the media recently or have followed them for some time, then mention this. You can of course be passionate about a cause without having specific links to it, but this enthusiasm, drive and commitment needs to be clear for the recruitment panel. It’s important that you have reviewed the time commitment – do mention that you’ve done this and that you feel you can meet this. Some organisations are hesitant to consider candidates who might be based further away so if you aren’t relatively local, it’s worth mentioning how you would envisage attending the Board meetings (though these days this is likely to be done over video-conference). This will demonstrate to the panel that you have really considered how this role would fit in with your current responsibilities.

If you need further advice or guidance on this, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Leadership & Governance Consultant, Brigitte Stundner on  0207 198 6060 or email Brigitte.Stundner@tpp.co.uk.