How much time should a Trustee give to their Board?


Grant-Taylor-3.115742If you are invited to join a Board as a volunteer Trustee it can be easy to believe that being present and using your skills and experience to pitch in on discussions that interest you is enough. They are lucky to have you and you are volunteering your valuable free time after all.


No no no!! That statement can only be correct if you are happy to join an organisation that lacks aspiration and you are content to be a part of what is likely to be a poor performing Board.

Like so much in life, if it is worth doing it is worth doing well, and putting time and commitment into your role as a Trustee is so much more rewarding than never truly engaging with the Trustee role and aspirations of the organisation. Working at a high-level takes discipline and time.

“high-impact boards spend 90% of their time focused on things other than governance”

In April McKinsey published some research that suggested that very high-impact corporate Boards spend about 40 days a year working on the full range of issues, while low or moderate impact Boards dedicated about 19 days on their work per year. Interestingly, both types of Boards only spent four days per year each on core governance and compliance, which means that high-impact corporate boards spend 90% of their time focused on things other than core governance. These things include strategy, performance management, organisational health, talent management and proactively managing risk.

“spend three times more time on strategy than governance”

The most striking statistic for me, and one that can be compared to the charity and not-for-profit sector quite comfortably is how high-impact Boards spend 12 days per year on strategy (compared to four days for core governance and compliance), while low and moderate impact Boards spend four days per year on strategy, the same amount of time as they do on core governance and compliance. so does your Board spend the same amount of time, or dare I say it, less on strategy compared to core governance?

Put very crudely, if your Trustee Board is not having a high-impact this data is showing us that your Board needs to spend three times more time on strategy than governance and your Trustees probably need to double the amount of time they give to the cause. Of course this is extremely crude as time invested doesn’t equate to quality outcomes, and there are so many other other factors that contribute to high-performance at Board level, but isn’t it interesting to consider what this means in terms of Trustee commitment and Board focus?

ACEVO are running a series of one-day workshops in conjunction with our Strategic Partners Peridot. Held in London, Bristol and Manchester, the theme is that every Board has the potential to be more effective in supporting the work of its organisation. We are “getting beyond governance” in these interactive sessions and introduce the concept of the 21st Century Board and how you can develop a Board with high-impact. For more information and bookings click here

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