Conchita from The FSI guest blogs in the run-up to 2013’s Small Charity Week.
Recent research by the FSI into the skills gaps within the small charity sector has shown that charitable organisations with an annual turnover under £1.5 million continue to struggle in key areas which impacts on their ability to deliver services.
The full report shows that as small charities prioritise the use of funding to deliver frontline programmes, they are increasingly unable to train or develop staff and volunteers. 66% of respondents stated there was no funding available for training and development, while 37% said there would be no room to improve their charitable services, which could impair the quality delivered to beneficiaries.
Small charities reported that impact reporting, long-term strategic planning and marketing were the areas in which they were struggling to plug this skills gap in their organisation. To see the full report, please click here.
Small Charity Week 2013 will be taking place between the 17th-22nd June and aims to address some of the issues raised by small charities as areas in which they struggle. Small charities can sign up to six days of free initiatives and competitions, including cash prizes, pro-bono advice and guidance from third sector and business experts including, the FSI, Reach, Oxfam and Credit Suisse to name a few. Also available will be opportunities for small charities to engage with policy makers and influencers when Nick Hurd, Minister of Civil Society hosts a cross-party event at Westminster on Policy Day.
Small charities have told us they continue to rely heavily on volunteers to support their activity and for the first time the FSI are including a Volunteering Day into the week’s programme to help small charities to promote their volunteer opportunities and find the skills they need for their organisation. We are excited to be working alongside Reach to support charities on this day.
The full breakdown for the week is as follows:
Small charities can sign up to all of the free activities of Small Charity Week through the website smallcharityweek.com and follow news through twitter @SCWeek2013 or the Facebook page
Conchita Garcia is Head of Projects and Development at The FSI. Here she blogs in a personal capacity.
Posted in Blog Entries Tagged with: Big Society, Charity boards, Charity Governance, Charity Trustee, Creative volunteer engagement, Fundraising, Governance, Skilled volunteering, Third Sector, Third sector leaders, Trustee Recruitment, Volunteer expertise
Especially for Trustees’ Week we’ve invited Alex to write a guest blog. He’s used the opportunity to share his take on the skills that are useful for being a Trustee.
In no particular order, here are my current top ten skills you need as a Trustee. I am learning about new attributes Trustees need all the time, so this isn’t a fixed list! I would love to hear your opinions, what do you think?
Passion into action
It is of fundamental important that you care about the aims of the charity that you are a Trustee for- but now you are on the Board, what are you going to do about it? What practical steps can you and the rest of the Board take to help the charity?
It is crucial that all Trustees have the ability to understand a budget and to review audited accounts. You don’t have to love figures, just to be able to work your way around them. Of course, if finance is your thing then you will be particularly in demand on Boards.
Adding something to a board
A skill; a perspective; a willingness to tackle a particular part of organisational development for the charity….this is a long list.
However experienced you are on Boards, when you join you have a new organisation to learn about with specific strengths and challenges. You need to try to hit the ground running. You also need to understand how the Board works. What angles are people coming from? What are their personalities like? How do you fit in? What skills do you lack that you might want to ask for some support with?
A Charity and its operations is made up of a lot of parts- beneficiaries, staff, Board members, other volunteers, funders, local press etc. While there will not be agreement all the time, you need to understand the priorities of others and to try to bring as many people together as possible towards a common vision.
This takes two main forms. The first is with other Board members. They don’t have to be your best friends but it is good if you have a decent working relationship where you can be honest with each other. Go for a coffee (or pint) together if you can. Support them with the things they are less confident about and don’t be scared to ask for their help in return. The second form of support is about being supportive of the staff of the charity, if the charity is lucky enough to have staff. They may be under a lot of pressure in all sorts of ways. If you can praise them when they deserve it, support them when they need it, and know when you should get involved and when you shouldn’t: then ultimately the aims and ambitions of the charity are more likely to be fulfilled.
When you first join a Board, you may see very clearly where your skills are needed. But over time, the organisation will change, your fellow Trustees will change, and you will change. Be prepared to help out in ways that you hadn’t envisaged: your Trustee experience will be all the richer for it.
In the midst of budgets, strategy, staffing issues and funding crises, you need to remember why the charity is ultimately there. Beneficiaries, beneficiaries, beneficiaries. If your efforts are supporting the intended beneficiaries of the charity at present, and if your actions are going some way to help that support to continue into the future, then you are doing a good job.
One of the blessings of being a Trustee is having the time to help the charity decide the strategic direction it is going to take. Staff may be tied up in fighting fires and in providing much-needed day to day services. A Board, especially a balanced Board, should have the opportunity and skills to think about strategy. How is the charity doing? Could it do other things? Should it stop doing some things?
Last, but definitely not least, especially in the current financial climate. This might be anything from providing funding contacts and advice to helping run a cake sale. Again if you already have fundraising skills, you may be able to greatly help a charity from the moment you join.
Posted in Blog Entries Tagged with: Good practice in governance, Skilled volunteering, Third Sector, Third sector leaders, Trustee, Trustee Recruitment, Trustees' Week, TrusteeWorks, Volunteer expertise
This Trustees’ Week we learn that over five million young people would consider becoming a charity trustee.
That research is no surprise to Luke, our TrusteeWorks Manager and Young Charity Trustees Ambassador. “Young people bring fresh perspective, new ideas and professional skills to the board”, he says.
Luke will be taking part in the Guardian’s live debate on the changing role of trustees and charity boards on Tuesday 6 November. Join in to become part of the conversation.
Meanwhile, over on YouTube, Alex talks about being young and on the board.
Posted in Blog Entries Tagged with: Charity boards, Good practice in governance, Governance, Improving performance, Third Sector, Trustee, Trustee Recruitment, Trustees' Week, TrusteeWorks, Volunteer expertise
Reach, the skilled volunteering charity, has appointed two new Trustees – Simon Hebditch, a social organisation consultant, and Andrew Jenkinson a Board level insurance specialist.
Reach’s Interim Chief Executive David Collins said, “Simon and Andrew bring a key range of management, financial and professional skills to Reach’s work. We are very pleased to have them on board as Reach embarks on its next phase of delivering an enhanced and more effective service to charities and professional volunteers.”
Simon Hebditch said, “Having worked for many years in the voluntary sector I have been aware of Reach and the invaluable and unique service it provides and I look forward very much to helping it develop its services and thrive for the future.”
Andrew Jenkinson said, “Reach is a highly regarded organisation and I look forward to contributing my financial and business experience to further improve its services to charities and volunteers.”
Liz Maher is standing down as a Reach trustee after nine years of service.
David Collins said, “Liz has made a very strong contribution to Reach and has been an inspiration to the our Board, staff and volunteers. We wish her well for the future.”
Simon Hebditch has worked in the voluntary and community sector for many years, specialising in policy analysis, strategic planning, campaigning and external relations. He is a Trustee of the Small Charities Coalition and was the first chief executive of Capacitybuilders from February 2006 to March 2008. Previously he had been external affairs director of the Charities Aid Foundation and assistant director of NCVO.
Andrew Jenkinson is Non Executive Director, Consultant and Interim Manager at Andrew Jenkinson Associates. He was formerly Group Finance Director at Barbon Insurance Group Ltd and Chairman of Friends of Hertfordshire Youth Music Groups.
Liz Maher is Director of Centurion VAT Specialists Ltd, a Council Member on Newport Board at South Wales Chamber of Commerce, Treasurer of Friends of Newport Cathedral Choir and a member of the CBI Enterprise Forum in Wales at CBI.
The current board of Reach Trustees is:
Posted in News Tagged with: Charity boards, Good practice in governance, Governance, Improving performance, Process improvement, Reach in the news, Reach volunteering, Staff Changes, Trustee Recruitment
Reach Volunteering is teaming up with YMCA England offering a discounted service to help it fill trustee positions at member associations around the country.
Paul Smillie of YMCA England said:
“It is really good to be working with Reach. We always need new trustees to help us deliver our work throughout the UK. Reach is a very professional organisation that is attentive to clients’ needs. They are putting forward a good stream of suitable professionally skilled volunteers who make a valuable contribution to our associations.”
At a cost of £60 per role, Reach’s TrusteeWorks service promotes YMCA trustee roles to its database of 2500 available professional volunteers.
David Collins, Interim CEO of Reach, said:
“We are excited to be working with YMCA England and helping its associations find the right trustees they need to develop their board’s full potential. Having worked with YMCA, we have a strong understanding of what is important to them.”
Find out more about our TrusteeWorks service.
With the Charity Commission recently debating the merits of formal training for charity trustees, I wanted to talk about Reach’s position.
I’d agree that there is an urgent need for much more training for trustees – to help them deal with increasingly complex issues raised. However, I also want to clarify and reinforce understanding of what a good trustee/chair does.
One common issue is that boards tend to develop their own set of behaviours and expectations. Where the board is weak, this perpetuates poor performance, and training for new trustees is crucial to arrest this. However even good boards could benefit from new trustees bringing in fresh and up to date perspectives on good governance.
Compulsory training would be problematic, but charities could have an expectation that new trustees would attend training. After all, schools expect all governors to attend training (both induction and specialist / update sessions).
The key question is who will pay for this? Most smaller charities have no budget at all for governance.
In an article on Third Sector recently Peter Sandford set out why he doesn’t lose any sleep over the old boys’ network. I’d like to respond and put an alternative view.
There will always be a role for word of mouth and serendipity, but it’s not without its drawbacks.
As well as the lack of transparency and diversity mentioned, it can result in serious skills gaps on the board which can make it difficult for the charity to face new challenges. For example, I know of several charities in the care sector who want to increase the business skills on their boards, but the board members, who are largely from the care sector, simply don’t have these people in their networks. And the narrower the experience of the board the less likely they can plug these gaps from their own contacts.
However, there are more options than the author suggests. There are free places to advertise and services such Reach’s TrusteeWorks, which are low cost. We’d strongly encourage charities to spread their nets are far as possible, and ensure that recruitment does involve a process of ‘selection’, whether an interview or a more informal meeting, where both board and potential trustee test the waters and confirm that they want to move forwards.
It can make all the difference in the long run.
Well, that is what quite a few charities have said to me in a moment of frankness, but it’s not a point of view you often hear in the public discourse about volunteering.
The Big Society, the Giving White Paper, RockCorps etc all focus on getting more people to volunteer through initiatives such as rewards for volunteering, micro volunteering, employee volunteering, as though drumming up an army of volunteers is a solution in itself.
However, as anyone who has either worked with volunteers, or been one themselves, knows, it’s not quite as simple as that. Many people have had a negative experience of volunteering – a project jeopardised by an unreliable volunteer perhaps, or conversely, the frustration of waiting around feeling under-utilised.
It’s not that charities don’t need more volunteers – for example almost half all charities have at least one vacancy on their board (and that vacancy means not only a role unfilled but pressure on remaining board members) and over 50% of charities we surveyed struggle to access the skills they need. And it’s not that volunteers can’t do wonderful things – many charities could not survive a day without them.
At Reach we are inspired on a daily basis by what volunteers do for charities, including our own where they do everything from service delivery, IT maintenance and software development through to market research, communications strategies, and much, much more.
The problem is that recruiting, training and managing volunteers requires a big investment of time, an investment which can outweigh the benefits a volunteer might bring. The stakes are even higher in skills based volunteering where there is a greater initial investment (identifying requirements, shaping them into a viable volunteering role, and then attracting and selecting the person with the right skills, availability, motivation and location) and also greater benefits (increased capacity, an injection of valuable skills and expertise, a fresh perspective drawn from experience in other sectors, to name but a few).
It can be tricky to get it right (it can be so difficult to turn down that kind offer of help, even when you know deep down that you should…) and if you get just one part wrong, and sometimes even when you do it all right, you can find yourself having to re-recruit whilst covering for the absence of a key volunteer. So many charities conclude that it’s just not worth the bother.
What the sector needs is a more balanced approach to volunteering, one which broadens the focus from increasing the supply of volunteers to stimulating demand and raising the quality of volunteering – helping and inspiring charities to identify which roles volunteers could effectively play in their organisations and more flexible and effective ways of recruiting those volunteers. Most volunteers are still recruited by word of mouth, for example, a system that might work well for some charities blessed with good networks, but does nothing for the less well connected -or for diversity.
We have fantastic volunteers on our own register, languishing for want of being asked, and it seems a crying shame to see such great potential going to waste, but until there is more focus on supporting charities to engage volunteers better, and more investment in matching supply and demand better through more flexible and effective recruitment tools, volunteering will not fulfil its potential.
Whether you are new to trusteeship, considering taking on a role, wanting to brush up your governance skills or are responsible for leading a board, Reach’s free events in the North East will help you along your trusteeship journey.
Timed to coincide with national Trustees’ Week, our workshops focus on trustee management in tough times and what trusteeship is all about. Click on the links next to each event to book your place or find out more.
Trustee Management in Tough Times
Aimed at anyone leading or supporting a trustee team, this free event offers a workshop on team building, advice on involving your trustees in fundraising and tips on trustee recruitment. There will also be governance advisors available for individual surgeries. To find out more and book your place click here.
The What, Why and How of Charity Trusteeship
A free event aimed at those who are interested in becoming a trustee and who would like more information about what the role entails and the satisfactions which it brings. To find out more and book your place, click here.
Find all the information you need to plan for Trustees’ Week in the autumn and build a great charity board at www.trusteeworks.org.uk. The handy guides build into an essential library of everything you need to know about trusteeship.
There’s a quick introduction to recruiting charity trustees, how to promote your vacancy and all about inductions for your trustee. You can also find examples of how to describe the roles of chair and trustee. Our introduction to a skills audit and a skills register will take you and your board through a simple but effective process to make sure your organisation stays supported.
And if you’re a volunteer looking for that perfect trustee role, don’t forget to read our guide on being a trustee. It covers the roles and responsibilities, skills needed and legal position of taking on that role. You can check out all our trustee resources here.
If you’re planning an event to support Trustees’ Week (31 October to 6 November), go to their free and downloadable resources at http://www.trusteesweek.org.uk/