On Tuesday 21 April, I had the opportunity to find out more about becoming a trustee at a free participatory workshop led by Reach and hosted by Team London and Greater London Volunteering.
On a lovely crisp sunny day overlooking the banks of the River Thames, delegates were ushered into one of the committee rooms at City Hall to hear from TrusteeWorks Manager, Luke Strachan and Reach CEO, Janet Thorne.
After a brief introduction by Team London’s Stephanie Kamin and GLV’s James Banks, Luke and Janet began their presentation on “An Introduction to Trusteeship with Insights into governance in the voluntary sector” which covered:
Luke explained that 50% of Reach’s work was based on trustees. With an estimated 169,000 charities in the UK and Wales, research says about 48% of charities have a vacancy on their board and that less than 5% of people are aware of trusteeship as a way to support a charity. How good charities are depends on the board who set the tone and culture. The board makes sure the charity is steering in the right direction, being true to why it was set up in the first place, and that it is continuing to be sustainable.
“Trustees are reliant on the CEO giving them the relevant information on the company,” added Janet. She also made the point that the role can really vary: “If it’s a small organisation, you may well be expected to do more hands-on stuff. A trustee may take their governing hat off to roll up their sleeves to be a marketeer.” It was agreed that as long as one was upfront and honest when recruiting a trustee to the board, expecting a trustee to do more was fine.
Janet then went on to develop the concept of a critical friend, in terms of the amount of support a board of trustees could give to the CEO and leadership team. A rather interesting discussion followed in which she revealed that trustees could be placed into 4 categories.
Janet expanded on the above terms discussing the amount of support a board could give to the CEO or leadership team. A fellow participant made the point that their board had a mixture of trustees, with people spread across all 4 camps!
A very spirited conversation then ensued on the topic of Risk vs Innovation with participants submitting examples of the different types of risk that may derail one’s role as a trustee.
On the question of what makes a great board of trustees in terms of dealing with risk, “It’s really to do with who is round the table,” said Janet. “If there is a very risk averse board, you need to get fresher blood in. It can also be a problem if everyone is from similar backgrounds, for example if you have a board full of people from large corporations. If you have a freelancer or someone from a charity background, the conversation changes. You need people who are cautious but also people who can take risk in their stride”.
At the end of the workshop there was a strategic problem-solving exercise. It was interesting to hear the solutions of the delegates who were divided into 4 groups and posed with different scenarios on how trustees might solve potential problems. I fortuitously ended up joining a group where I could relate to the challenge presented – the difficulties a board member might face from a board opposed to change if she were female and from ‘an ethnic minority.’
“The beauty of this session was that there was no right or wrong answer” said Luke. “It was simply pitting together all their life skills, people skills and experience gained from different professions. A real taster of what it would be like being on a real board.”
So why be a trustee?
Luke made an impassioned speech about becoming a trustee. I discovered that being a trustee is in fact a real insight into how an organisation works. You get to know how all the different departments come together. On the trustee challenge at the end of the presentation, Luke added, “Many of the problems required skills-based answers. It’s about people working together. There are things that are intuitively garnered. By and large, being a trustee is about people.”
On sources of support for trustees, Janet explained that the LinkedIn group UK Charity Trustees (which is co-managed by Reach and SCC) has a constant supply of questions, insights and information for trustees. Janet also referred to the Code of Good Governance which is a useful resource for a board to review itself. Other sources of support include the Charity Commission, CASS CCE, NPC, NCVO, The Association of Chairs and the Honorary Treasurers’ Forum.
“At Reach,” Janet concluded, “We believe a trustee role is about a mutual fit, so recruitment is a two-way conversation between the charity and the prospective trustee. Most charities approach it this way.”
Judging from the reaction of the delegates, with whom I had the pleasure of speaking to and from the general bonhomie that followed, the event struck exactly the right notes. As a marketing volunteer who prior to the workshop had no interest in becoming a trustee, I am now considering it. Perhaps that’s the best feedback!
We are thrilled to work in partnership with a number of hugely inspiring and effective organisations helping them to access the skills needed to thrive. These partnerships help us to extend our service further.
One recent example is our TrusteeWorks service becoming an official partner and preferred supplier to the Carers Trust. The Carers Trust Network provides support and services throughout the UK to unpaid carers who look after family and friends.
Their vision is, ‘of a world where the role and contribution of unpaid carers is recognised and they have access to the trusted quality support and services they need to live their own lives.’
Carer’s Trust is now proactively promoting the TrusteeWorks services to its network partners and as a result we are now working with them in areas such as Kent, West Sussex, Hampshire and Oxfordshire.
Andrew Cozens Chair of the Carers Trust said:
“Carer’s Trust is pleased to have developed a partnership with TrusteeWorks to help our network partners source trustees with the expertise they need. This is a particular challenge for local charities and we are confident this will be a big boost.”
As TrusteeWorks manager, I am excited to be working alongside organisations like the Carers Trust to help them strengthen their boards and find the right people who will make an impact.
The next step in our collaboration is to meet Fergus Arkley, the Carers Trust Regional Manager, to review progress and I look forward to developing the partnership over the coming months.
At the start of the New Year, we are pleased to announce that we have a new trustee, Alice Memminger. Alice recently joined our trustee board and brings a wealth of third sector and social enterprise experience, working in the third sector as a consultant and senior manager for the past nine years.
Alice is currently the Chief Executive of UpRising, a UK-wide youth leadership development organisation. She was previously at Sue Ryder, where she worked as Head of Strategic Planning and Programme Delivery, and before that worked at Parkinson’s UK, Hammersmith and Fulham Circle and Age UK Barking and Dagenham.
We asked about what drives her, her thoughts about skilled volunteering and Reach, and what she will bring to the board:
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about being a catalyst for change to make our sector as efficient and effective as possible. By building capacity in organisations we can ensure they have the skills to strategically plan for the long-term and become self-sufficient.
Why did you join Reach?
I became interested in Reach when I was searching for skilled volunteering opportunities years ago. I believe there is untapped potential in the UK with a huge number of skilled people who do not know how to contribute their expertise.
Too often, skilled volunteers are not being engaged to their full potential; whereas the third sector is in urgent need of these skills. I believe that Reach has the ability to bring light to this untapped potential, bringing massive benefit to the charity sector.
What do you think you will bring to the board?
I believe the board will benefit from my diverse experience in the third sector. I have worked with numerous charities across the sector, big and small. I can contribute across all areas of the charity with particular expertise in strategy and social enterprise. I hope to have impact in these areas especially and I am excited about joining the board to help Reach grow and extend its impact.
We are delighted about Alice joining us and the expertise she will bring helping charities access skilled volunteers. The trustees and staff would like to extend her a massive welcome and as we enter 2015, a year we are certain will be very exciting for Reach, we are thrilled to have her on board.
Have you recently applied to a trustee position but struggled to write a cover letter? Do you often feel that you don’t know where to start or have even questioned the importance of one?
You are not alone!
As a trustee recruiter, I regularly receive emails and calls asking me these questions – from aspiring and seasoned trustees alike.
Is a cover letter important? My response to this is a very strong yes! Charities have different causes and organisations want to ensure their cause is championed by the most effective and passionate people. Hence a cover letter is the first step in displaying that you are this person!
While a CV tends to give a sketch of your work history, a cover letter helps you showcase your personality and contribution as a trustee.
To begin with, it may be useful to know that trustee cover letters are slightly different from professional ones in both format and tone. Trustee cover letters are simple, have flexible formats and are content focused. They tend to be less business like and more personable. The other important thing to remember is that leaving out a cover letter in a trustee application process is not an option.
Writing such cover letters may seem daunting at first however with little exploration this can be easily accomplished.
These letters basically ask for three key elements:
So, taking this into account, how can you draft a cover letter that will have an impact?
Once you have selected a charity with a trustee position you want to apply for, you must show your reasons for wanting to get involved, demonstrating your passion for the cause and your commitment to get – and perhaps more importantly stay – involved. Therefore begin your application by getting to the heart of your charity and knowing what sort of organisation it is and how it runs.
A charity’s website is a good place to start background research. Sometimes trustee job descriptions won’t tell you enough to get started, so I’d seek help from your contacts or brokering agencies such as Reach to help you gain access to clients, annual reports or answer any initial questions you may have.
Example 1: This example highlights how personal experiences can be aligned to charitable objectives and professional expertise. It highlights how one’s life experience can turn into a passion for a cause and an organisation and also demonstrates why the individual wants to get involved:
I have pleasure in attaching my CV to apply as a Trustee for Campaigning and Advocacy for XX charity.
I have followed your organisation and admired your work for several years now. I was motivated to apply for this trustee role having been diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy where I was severely hospitalised. Following this experience I realised how much more awareness was needed amongst the general public and what to watch out for. I would therefore love to apply my skills, expertise and passion towards your organisation and helping to steer it towards even greater success.
I served for six years as a trustee for the national charity YY which I found extremely rewarding notably in extending their membership base. I am committed to ensuring that I give the best I can to any organisation I get involved with. I believe I am well-suited to the role as I have significant experience of national campaigning to a target audience, including the execution of multi-channel marketing campaigns.
A charity wants to know that any trustee who joins them will be a valuable asset who will be able to give their time, commitment and passion so if you can show this, you will be in a strong position.
Clients are looking for candidates who can demonstrate their contribution as trustees. You need to highlight your professional skills and expertise and show what you will bring to the board. A trustee board should ideally have a mix of different skills, mindsets and experience to show diversity and ensure balance. You need to show in your cover letter what skills you have. When attempting to write down your contribution as a trustee, tailor your letter around the job and person specification.
Example 2 – This is an example of a thorough cover letter which provides a holistic and clear overview of all their skills:
I believe myself to be competent in this area and can offer the very specific skills and experience you are looking for:
- Audit, Finance & Risk Management – I am a member of the Governance & Audit Committees at YY and I have contributed to the Board’s consideration of Governance arrangements by …
- High Level Financial Competence – I am a qualified accountant with a broad base of finance skills but also have the experience to take a lead role in XX.
I can demonstrate dedication to the role and can meet the time commitment to read all papers, prepare for, attend and contribute to meetings in line with the work of the finance and audit committee. I can also undertake to attend training and development and engage pro-actively in the induction process.
- I can analyse complex information and reach sensible conclusions by demonstrating the ability to communicate effectively with a diverse range of people in a constructive manner.
- I can work with others effectively and believe teamwork enhances overall performance and can lead to better decisions and services.
In terms of personal qualities:
- I am able to demonstrate a sharing to the values including that of probity in public life and can also demonstrate a commitment to your charity’s cultural elements …
- I have a ‘duty of care’ ethos which is at the heart of everything I do and I believe investing in a diverse workforce enables better performance and a more inclusive customer service.
This is an example of a clear cover letter which shows instantly how they align to the needs of the organisation. As with job applications, trustee positions can get a number of applicants so make sure you stand out!
Clients are looking for people who can fit into their culture. Make use of relevant and transferable abilities and personal experiences. This is where any personal research you have done and any preliminary client conversations you have had will make you stand out.
Trustee vacancies are aligned to charity objectives and you may find as you write about your professional experience that it doesn’t quite fit the job description… don’t worry though! Make your cover letter unique by highlighting your transferable skills from your workplace along with your personal experiences, to show what you would bring to the role.
Example 2 – Here’s an example of a cover letter that showcases the skills acquired in the commercial sector tailored to the third sector:
I am currently looking for an opportunity to use my expertise to support a not-for-profit organisation, as for the first time in my business life I am able to commit the time necessary to offer my skills as a trustee in an environment where I can bring real value to a board.
I was drawn to XX charity opportunity, as a stated role requirement was the ‘evaluation of complex information, assisting to build consensus and robust governance within the board group’ – which dovetails well with my skills gained over many years in the analysis of complex (often financial) information required in the acquisition, restructuring and improving of operations I have undertaken in many differing arenas.
I have been a Director for many years and have experience in both SME and large international PLC operations. I feel that one of the key strengths I could bring to the trustee board is in negotiation, having spent my entire working life in a commercial environment, negotiating with contractors and suppliers. I am particularly looking for a role where I can bring relevant experience to the table to strengthen the skills base of the existing board.
A charity needs to have people who fit into their organisation whilst at the same time challenging them to reach their full potential. So try to describe how you will fit as well as how you can contribute as a trustee.
I believe that even the most distinguished CVs need cover letters for trustee vacancies. The above examples of cover letters are in no way exhaustive however, they show effective ways to highlight your relevant skills, passion and experience that any charity would need. Remember the three key elements and steps for trustee applications to guide you and you should craft a cover letter that wows.
I am happy to review any cover letters you are looking to send, so please contact me. As a trustee recruiter with Reach I’m committed to help you find a role that fits you.
Reach’s Trusteeworks Matching Service will be free from 1 November 2013 for charities with an annual turnover of under £1 million. Reach believes that removing the entry level charge of £75 for smaller charities, who have limited funds for recruiting, will make a big difference by helping them to strengthen their boards.
Strong boards, with a sufficient breadth of experience and skills, are crucial for charities facing difficult decisions in an uncertain economic climate. The ability to recruit outside a charity’s immediate networks by using a service like Reach is an important factor in this process.
The Trusteeworks Matching Service provides a free, high-quality introduction to skilled volunteers. The trustee role appears on Reach’s register of available trustee opportunities, and Reach’s recruitment teams search their extensive register of available volunteers, sound out candidates and forward suitable names to the charity.
In addition to the Matching Service, Reach offers the Trusteeworks Matching Plus Service and the Trusteeworks Premium Service which provide additional features such as preparing advertising copy for the role and in-depth screening and briefing of candidates.
Reach is the biggest recruiter of trustees in the UK having placed nearly 750 with charities all over the country since the launch of Trusteeworks in October 2009, including 185 in 2012 and 142 so far this year. Overall, Reach placed 500 volunteers in 2012 representing an estimated value of £9 million worth of skills transferred into the charity sector, and registered over 1,000 new volunteers and more than 1,100 placement opportunities with charities.
Posted in News Tagged with: Charity boards, Charity Governance, Charity Trustee, Corporate volunteering, Good practice in governance, Good practice in volunteering, Governance, Measuring impact, Reach in the news, Reach volunteering, Recession, Skilled volunteering, Trustee, Trustee Recruitment, Trustees' Week, TrusteeWorks, Volunteer expertise
Iain Herbertson, who was a Reach Trustee for several years until he left the Board earlier this year, has sadly died.
He contributed much time and energy to Reach and showed insight and imagination to finding better ways of doing things.
While he’d been ill for a number of years this in no way diminished his commitment and verve as a Trustee.
During his time at Reach, he helped with the successful implementation of TrusteeWorks and with ensuring that Reach developed in a positive forward-looking way to continue to deliver its unique and vital role for professional volunteering.
Before joining Reach, Iain had a long and successful career in the employment services industry mostly with the major international company Manpower. His senior positions included Managing Director of Manpower UK and President of Manpower’s Asia and Pacific operations.
Reach has appointed a new Chair, Senior Civil Servant Andrew Dent.
Joining him on the Reach Board as its new Treasurer will be experienced financial accountant Graham Warner.
Reach Chief Executive Janet Thorne said, “We are delighted that Andrew is to be our new Chair and Graham our new Treasurer. They bring key management, financial and professional skills and will strengthen our governance as we move to delivering an enhanced and more effective service to charities and professional volunteers. That we can attract leaders of such calibre is a positive indicator of the continuing value of Reach’s unique service to the health of the Third Sector. We are proud that both appointees came from our own register, despite a wide recruitment campaign.”
Andrew Dent said, “I am delighted to be taking on the role of Reach Chair and see it as an excellent opportunity to use the skills and experience I have built in Whitehall to help it develop and thrive for the future.”
Graham Warner said, “Reach is a highly regarded organisation and I look forward as Treasurer to contributing my financial and business experience to further improve its services to charities and volunteers.”
Andrew Dent has spent most of his career at the Home Office where he is currently Director of Passport Operations. Previously he was Head of UK Wide Operations for the London 2012 Olympics including overseeing the Torch Relay, and Deputy Director of the National Asylum Support Service. Between 1997 and 2000 he served as one of The Queen’s Private Secretaries. In 2000, he was appointed Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO). He has been Trustee of the Jubilee Walkway Trust since 2004.
Graham Warner, a qualified Chartered Accountant for 35 years, has worked as a finance director and in senior financial reporting roles for a number of leading financial services firms. He has also previously been Treasurer of his local Mencap Society
Andrew and Graham will join the Reach Board with effect from its Annual General Meeting on June 4.
At the AGM Bob Fee will leave the Reach Board after many years of service including the last two as Chairman.
Janet Thorne said, “Bob has served Reach well and his leadership helped us to steer successfully through the sometimes choppy waters that all charities have faced in the last few years of economic strain.”
The board of Reach Trustees from June 4 will be:
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 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.