Trustees’ Week is an opportunity to celebrate and thank trustees for their contributions. We’re fortunate to have a fantastic board who give their time, bringing valuable experiences and perspectives. As a charity set up to support young people, it’s so important for us to have young voices represented in all areas of our work. We were delighted when Abubakar Buwe, a previous member of our Young People’s Development Group, joined our board as an Associate Trustee in 2020.
Only 0.5% of charity trustees today are between the ages of 18-24 – meaning the vast majority of charities miss out on getting young people’s insights and perspectives on their work.
We recently had the pleasure of Youth Leads UK CEO Saeed Atcha MBE DL leading a session all about young trustees to Youth Zone boards. In this Q&A, Saeed interviews Abu about his journey to becoming a young trustee and his advice for charities wanting to recruit a young trustee to their board.
Abu, you’re an Associate Trustee of OnSide; tell us about the process of becoming a young trustee.
The process started when I met OnSide CEO Kathryn Morley and discussed the role. I was interested in it and had a call with the then Chair, Bill. These informal conversations were for both OnSide and myself to learn more about each other because it’s quite a big decision for the organisation and the individual. As the process continued, I became even more interested and was appointed an Associate Trustee.
Why do you think it is important for organisations to consider young trustees?
I’d say that Boards generally lack diversity. A recent CAF report found that despite young people [aged 18-24] make up 12% of the UK’s population, fewer than 2% of charities have a young person serving on their board.
I think it’s important that organisations, especially those serving children and young people, think about having young people involved in their decision-making processes. Young people bring a diversity of relevant experiences and opinions. I’ve enjoyed making a meaningful difference as an Associate Trustee.
Was there anything that stood out to you during the induction process that you feel every charity should think about when it comes to recruiting young people as trustees?
You can’t underestimate the induction process and the first few meetings. Kathryn acted as my mentor. She helped me go through the board papers before meetings and debrief after the meetings. This was crucial to helping me feel comfortable with the process. I’d also say that having one-to-ones with existing board members was key. It helps you with jargon-busting, preparing questions and understanding areas I hadn’t previously been exposed to.
We’ve heard about young people wanting to make a difference and participate in social action. Do you think that there is enough awareness around young trustees in general?
I think awareness needs to be raised amongst young people – I never thought a Trusteeship would be something for me. I always saw the role as something equivalent to a big company executive where you would look and act in a certain way, having had decades of experience, but we all have different skills we can bring to boards.
I’d add that awareness needs to be raised to existing boards that young people have very different commitments than a traditional Trustee, so there needs to be a level of flexibility. Not all young people will have a finance or business degree or be trained to Level 4 in safeguarding. They might also be going through big life changes and key transition points, which shouldn’t be a barrier to their contributions.
Making the young trustee process more accessible is also helpful. This can be done by:
Finally, what advice would you give to charities thinking about recruiting a young trustee?
Go for it! Start to ask the questions, begin the conversations and remember that it’s a journey for your organisation and the young person.
Saeed and I have come up with the following top tips when thinking about young trustees:
Abu is a 23-year-old student who has served as Associate Trustee at OnSide since 2020, following three years volunteering on an OnSide Youth Development Group.
Saeed Atcha MBE DL is a 26-year-old charity CEO who became a Trustee of Step up to Serve aged 16. He has served as a Trustee of national, regional and local charities and currently serves on four boards as a Trustee.
Keep up to date with OnSide and follow our Network’s journey of young trusteeships by connecting with us on social media.