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.
Last year I had started out sharing my experience on why being a trustee was a great opportunity. It’s been more than a year as a trustee and while I do still feel the same, I also seem to have discovered new motivations along the way which seem to go beyond mere career aspirations. So here’s an account of why becoming a trustee is a great opportunity personally and professionally.
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:
Small and large organisations expect different levels of engagement from their trustees. However, regardless of the size of your organisation, make sure to research your charity, connect with staff and trustees and stay engaged and focussed. 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 I became 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. I became a trustee to improve my career prospects and to get strategic and leadership experience. Having spent more than a year as a trustee, there have been both satisfying and challenging moments. The challenging ones are the typical ones to name a few i.e. trying to balance my time between my day job and trustee meetings; trying to balance my involvement in operational matters and governance matters. These are never easy to get right but have definitely improved my ability to manage time better and prioritise. The rewarding moments are those where the Board begins to view you as a valued member for your decision making and problem solving skills that helped them take a step in the right direction.
Personally I have developed the courage to challenge and support decisions, learnt to appreciate the strengths of other Board members I work with and communicate objectively and constructively. I have realised that to become a trustee it is not enough to be passionate about it but to be able to stick by and be accountable to all things going well and not so well.
How you can become a Trustee
The nature of boards is changing and there is a need for diverse trusteeship. There is also an uptake of trusteeship from professionals these days so make the most of this opportunity and come forward. You as a potential trustee can now 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. If you are someone who can stay committed and devote sufficient time, make a genuine contribution as a member on Board and be accountable then this one is for you.
You can become a trustee in three easy ways:
Research the charity you like, reach out to them and explore the many possibilities of engaging with them. Go on! Become a trustee if you aren’t already one, it’s a journey waiting to be explored.
For those who are already trustees come forward and share your experiences thoughts and contributions. Let’s celebrate trusteeship!
(This blog also appeared on the Trustees’ Week website.)