You too can become a Trustee!


This is the first in our series of blogs for Trustees Week 2014.

Have you ever considered trusteeship? Many of us volunteer our time to causes that are close to our hearts but even some of the most dedicated, long term volunteers have failed to consider trusteeship as something they could actually do.

As a trustee recruiter and trustee myself, I often find that few people know about it and those who do, are unsure of how to become one. In addition to this, there are many misconceptions about who can become a trustee: most wrongly assume that you have to be middle-aged or retired with a huge portfolio of achievements and extensive non-executive experience. Whilst this is sometimes the case, being a trustee is a much broader undertaking than simply applying a narrow band of professional skills.

I want to share my experience of why being a trustee is a great opportunity for you to explore and develop yourself as a person and a professional and how you too can become a trustee.

Trusteeship in a nutshell

Simply put, trustees are Board members who govern a charity. As a trustee you’d be helping a charity run efficiently according to its mission, strategy and objectives set out in its governing document. You will not be managing but will be working towards developing an overarching strategy, keeping it risk free, compliant along with a duty of care and prudence to its beneficiaries.

Your role as a trustee could be that of a chair, treasurer or a general trustee or a trustee with specific functional expertise. Your effectiveness as a trustee will depend on:

  1. Your ability to work together with other trustees
  2. Your time commitment and involvement in the organisation’s work
  3. Making a positive contribution in areas within and sometimes outside your area of expertise
  4. Getting trustee meetings to make big decisions
  5. Engaging in constructive criticism and decision making

Small and large organisations expect different levels of engagement from their trustees. However, regardless of the size of your organisation, make sure you get to know the members of staff and other trustees and be present and engaging.
For more details refer to the Charity Commission’s simple yet well written guidance document ‘The essential trustee: what you need to know (CC3)’.

Why become a Trustee

I’ve been extensively involved in introducing professionals as trustees within the charity sector and have encountered a wide variety of reasons for why people become trustees. Personally, I became a trustee to improve my career prospects by building experience of strategy and leadership, but it is the satisfaction I gain from contributing to a great cause which compels me to remain a trustee. I feel I’ve put my abilities and knowledge to good use in a new environment whilst learning new skills in the process. It has helped me become a responsible and accountable professional because I get a direct view as to how my suggestions and decisions directly impact the organisation and the community it serves. I believe it’s a win-win situation.

How to become a Trustee

There are three easy ways you can become a trustee:

  1. Register yourself with brokering agencies such as Reach
  2. Network at trustee focused events organised by organisations such as I AM, NCVO, Small Charities Coalition etc and join trustee groups and hubs on LinkedIn, Guardian etc.
  3. Apply directly to trustee vacancies advertised on charity websites, jobs boards and LinkedIn and don’t be afraid to directly approach a charity you are interested in

Becoming a trustee is easily accessible as many boards are now responding to the need for diverse members. Depending on the organisation’s work, a potential trustee should show the following: soft-skills; vocational skills both relevant and transferable, and personal experience all of which add context and depth to strategic decision-making. In all instances, one of the most important aspects of being a trustee is to have sufficient time and commitment to make a genuine contribution to the role since it can be both engaging and challenging at the same time.

If you would like to get involved then find a charity you like, reach out to them and explore the many possibilities that may follow: trusteeship is an adventure you too can embark upon! I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences as practicing or aspiring trustees.

This blog also appeared on the I AM website, in celebration of Trustees’ Week 2014, on 10th-16th November.

With a background in HR, Bilwa is a Trustee Recruiter in Reach’s TrusteeWorks team. She has recently joined the Board at The Abbeyfield Society George Brooker House.
November 10th, 2014 by