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:
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:
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.
The recruitment of trustees is something that all charities do differently. However, there are a number of mistakes which, as a recruitment expert in the field, I see cropping up again and again.
Trustees’ Week is a great time to examine them.
1) Sparse or weakly constructed role description
This is probably the most common problem with a recruitment process. The most qualified professionals seeking trustee roles can be as discerning as they like: they look for role descriptions that stand out from the crowd and many will only apply to those roles that are carefully crafted: grammar, clarity, purpose, incentive, interest and scope are all aspects of your role which will be judged.
Many organisations now create attractive information packs to ensure that their role catches the eye of prospective trustees and this is a very effective tactic. Remember, the quality of your role description reflects the quality of the organisations work.
2) Unwillingness to spend money on the recruitment process
It is a common misconception that volunteers work for free.
Of course, volunteers are not paid but that doesn’t mean that they don’t consume resources: expenses, training, management time all contribute to a cost. A lot of charities believe that, because a trustee is unpaid, their recruitment should also incur no cost, despite the fact that it takes time to draft a role description (and even more to create an info pack). Equally, dealing with applications, shortlisting, interview and induction all take a toll of resources.
As such, organisations should not see investing in good trustees as wasted resources but rather, a solid investment which will pay dividends if done right.
3) Thinking outside the box
Charities who struggle to find the ideal candidate are often looking at their applicants without creativity. For example, a charity seeking a fundraising trustee may overlook candidates who have an extensive back ground in marketing, yet, in many instances, fundraising is a form of targeted marketing.
In short, flexibility and a view to recruiting people with transferable skills and determination may often prove as effective (and sometimes even more so) than a candidate who ticks all the boxes but has limited time or passion for the role.
Posted in Blog Entries Tagged with: Charity boards, Charity Governance, Charity Trustee, Good practice in governance, Good practice in volunteering, Skilled volunteering, Trustee Recruitment, Trustees' Week
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
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
Register now for your place on our free webinar on routes to becoming a non-executive director through trusteeship. Reach’s Chief Executive Director, Sarah King, is one of three expert speakers.
It’s on 27 October and we’re working with our partners ICAEW.
Click here to find out more and book a place: http://www.icaew.com/en/events/2011/october/msweb-trusteeship-becoming-ned-111027
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.
With only one month to go to this year’s national Trustees’ Week, Monday 31st October – 6th November, Trustees’ Week partners are encouraging local charities and organisations to hold their own events to celebrate the work of their trustees and encourage new people to volunteer in this unique way.
Trustees’ Week 2011 celebrates the fantastic work of existing trustees and aims to increase awareness and understanding of the trustee role.
There are already 30 events in England, Scotland and Wales being promoted on the Trustees’ Week website, from training events to ‘speed matching’ evenings matching charities with prospective trustees. There are downloadable posters and flyers available for any groups wishing to hold an event as well as top tips for events and how to get local media coverage. The website also profiles trustees from around the UK who are passionate about their charities and the difference they can make.
Vanessa John, from Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services (PAVS) said;
“We organised an event for the first Trustees’ Week last year and it was a great success, so we are organising events again for this year focusing on current issues affecting organisations. Trustees’ Week is a great opportunity to get trusteeship on the map locally and support existing trustees with training to help them in their work. I’d recommend to any voluntary groups to get involved – you never know what might come of it!”
This year Trustees’ Week is also promoting the potential for young people to become trustees. The campaign highlights the mutual benefit of invaluable experience that trusteeship can bring young people as well as the worthwhile contribution they can make to a charity.
Research published by the Charity Commission showed that young people are hugely under-represented on charity boards in England and Wales. Despite the fact that young people aged 18-24 make up 12% of the adult population, only 4,220 trustees are aged under 24 out of a total of over 810,000 trustees in England and Wales, yet research shows they are the age group most likely to consider being a trustee.
Trustees’ Week is additionally now being supported by the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA), Charity Finance Directors’ group (CFDG) and the School Governor’s One Stop Shop, in partnership with the Charity Commission, Charity Trustee Network, recently merged with the Small Charities Coalition, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Reach Volunteering, Getting on Board, ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales), Governance magazine, the National Unions of Students (NUS).
Whilst there are around 800,000 trustees in England and Wales, estimates suggest that almost half of charities have a vacancy on their trustee board. A number of the organisations behind Trustees’ Week provide trustee matching services, details of these can be found at www.trusteesweek.org.uk.
The Trustees’ Week website will be updated regularly in the run-up to 31st October with information about the campaign and details of events and activities planned by charities and other organisations. If you are organising a Trustees’ Week event or if you are a trustee and would be willing to be a case study, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter you can follow @trusteesweek and use the hashtag #trusteesweek.
The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales. See www.charitycommission.gov.uk or call 0845 300 0218 for further information
For more information about the organisations behind Trustees’ Week, please visit www.trusteesweek.org.uk or the websites of the organisations themselves:
The Army of Angels is a military charity that supports members of the UK’s armed forces who have been physically or mentally injured while serving their country in conflicts around the world. New Reach trustee Andrew McCartney has made a big impact on its board in a very short time.
The charity, based in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, supports all services and ranks and includes veterans of wars in Europe, the Far East, the Falklands, Afghanistan and the Gulf. Many of the men and women have mental health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder or physical ones such as amputations.
Reach introduced business-experienced trustee Andrew to the charity just six months ago. Working at Gloucestershire Council, he’s gathered lots of contacts and has been able to introduce them to the work of the charity. One of the most important of these has been Gloucestershire’s Rotary Club.
The charity’s co-founder, Cathy Skelnar, says, ‘After Andrew made this important connection for us, our colleague Steve Valentine gave them a short presentation about our work and they are now fundraising for us. They’ve also named Army of Angels as one of their charities of the year. A fantastic result for us.’
Andrew also helped the launch of the charity’s new shop, which opened this year, go with a bang. He arranged the attendance of Gloucester Quays Rotary President, Paul Kerrod, and for local MP Richard Graham to cut the ribbon. The shop is already a useful source of income and is set to develop even further with Andrew’s ideas and savvy business sense.
It’s the behind-the-scenes work of trustees like Andrew which enables established projects like the Route 66 bike tours to continue. The charity has just helped 10 wounded ex-servicemen and women to take part in this global motorcycle trip. Sometimes riding pillion, their involvement often increases self-esteem dented following physical and mental trauma.
On a practical day-to-day level, the injured also regularly express their gratitude for grants to buy basic living help such as a microwave, kettle or furniture. One soldier ‘couldn’t express’ how grateful he was for his mobility scooter grant, giving him the chance to leave this flat after months stuck inside.
During Trustees’ Week and beyond, we celebrate the contribution of our volunteers like Andrew who are the backbone of charities such as Army of Angels. The unseen but guiding hand through challenging times and the creative spark for sustainable development.
In the run-up to Trustees’ Week, we’ve highlighted three great trustee roles this week:
Become a trustee for Brentwood Mind, providing a drop-in centre which gives people a safe environment to socialise and benefit from peer support: http://www.charityjob.co.uk/jobs/215597/trustee
Volunteer as Chair for National Family Mediation and help ease families through painful break-ups: http://www.charityjob.co.uk/seekers/jobdetails.aspx?jobid=215598
Become Treasurer for a UK neurological charity: http://www.charityjob.co.uk/seekers/jobdetails.aspx?jobid=215613