On Monday 16th Nov I pedalled my way to City Hall, Tower Bridge to attend the Inspiring Trusteeship Conference. The event was organised by Greater London Volunteering in partnership with us at Reach and Team London, who provided the glorious City Hall as the venue. Everything was offered pro-bono – a zero budget / no charge conference.
I know what you’re thinking, ‘inspiring’ doesn’t necessarily spring to mind as an obvious prefix to Trusteeship, but as the day unfolded, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed and learnt from the day.
The day started formally, in City Hall’s great Chamber. After the delegates made their way up the gently sloping, spiral ramp, Cameron the chair of GLV introduced himself and guest speakers Dr Alice Maynard CBE and Leon Ward. Alice gave an insightful analysis of trusteeship, focusing on the importance of challenging perspectives on the board and inciting debate amongst members to spark development. I listened avidly as she spoke about her own experience as a trustee and CEO.
Next came Leon, bringing the ‘young persons’ view, which made for a good comparison. At 23, he’d already held many trustee positions and he spoke candidly about his own personal development through trusteeship. He was able to demonstrate how important it was to have a fresh perspective on a trustee board; be it through a younger generation of trustees or implementing maximum terms.
This discussion was followed seamlessly, with a more focused conversation on the specific CEO and Chair relationship within the charity context and beyond. This panel included Ros Oakley (Association of Chairs), Gerald Oppenheim (Chair of The Camden Society), David Gold (Prospectus) and Charles Smith (Chair of the Governing Body at Burdett-Coutts & Townshend Foundation CE Primary School). Afterwards, the floor was opened to questions and I had the important task of handling the roving mic. The Q&A afterwards was lively, particularly when a passing comment on power vs leadership roused many in the audience.
After my 15 minutes of fame, I lingered at the back of the Chamber to watch Janet, Reach’s CEO, present a descriptive Pecha Kucha (in case you don’t know what Pecha Kucha is, check out this link). Her five minutes sharp, were just enough for her to explain a little about our new online service and the tools that it offers for charities looking to find great trustees. As the first of four presentations, she masterfully handled the pressure and left the room awash with questions which was continued during the networking time in the market place, where the Reach stand was inundated with people enquiring into our service.
The other four pecha kucha presentations also provided valuable information in a short space of time, with NCVO on their PQASSO quality mark, as well as the Association of Chairs, Russell Cooke LLP and the Cranfield Trust.
Following lunch, the entire group made its way back up the spiralling ramp, an interesting commute but definitely not the most efficient, to the Chamber where we heard Reena Pastakia talk about her experience of becoming a trustee. I enjoyed listening to her speak. Perhaps it was hearing about the exciting organisation that she’d become a trustee for, Sound Seekers. Or maybe it was just a nice story to listen to, but I thought it split the conference up nicely, allowing for a good balance between discussion and presentation. She spoke inspiringly about how the position had made a huge difference in her life as well as what she had contributed. (You can see Reena speaking the picture above).
For the last hour or so, delegates chose one of four workshops to attend. These were: Legal updates for Trustees, Tips for recruiting great Trustees, Introduction to Trusteeship and Funding landscape in London. I sat in on Introduction to Trusteeship, presented by Janet, who spoke in depth about the significance of any trustee role and the challenges that it may present. After taking a stab at defining the ‘ideal’ trustee board, she settled on the term ‘Critical Friend‘. This is used to refer to the board that is able to challenge and scrutinise its CEO effectively.
The workshop slid nicely onto an interactive chat on Risk vs. Innovation. One of the key points brought up here, was the importance of a board that proactively manages risk rather than avoiding it. The audience seemed more than eager to contribute and some thought provoking points were raised.
To round the workshop off, the group were asked to form smaller teams and then to complete a small task which involved coming up with a strategy needed to solve a specific problem. Despite it coming up to 4 o’clock in a day full of information and chatting with various people, the group remained engaged; a positive evaluation of the event, I thought.
Whilst the last delegates mingled, the Reach team re-grouped and discussed the conference. It seemed we’d all had a good time, achieved a lot and learnt something. For me, it was important to see the great work that people contribute to organisations everywhere, harnessing a lifetime of experience to benefit others. I suppose this is how I find trusteeship inspiring – that people are willing to offer their own skills in a position of huge responsibility, that reverberates globally in some cases but which largely goes unnoticed and mostly un-applauded, except for at events such as these.
Thanks again to GLV and Team London for hosting the event. You can find some of the presentations from the event on the GLV website.
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.
Every trustee knows that recruiting new board-members can be a daunting task. How do you find someone who really cares about your cause with the right skills and experience, a personality and background which complements the existing board members as well as the time available to make a genuine contribution?
Given that most boards aren’t static and the needs of both the organisation and the individual trustees are constantly changing, recruiting new board members is an on-going issue for most non-profits. That’s why getting your board to agree on a structured and thorough approach to recruitment is one of the most effective ways to ensure that the long-term governance of your organisation is not only secure but efficient, well-rounded and fit to take on whatever challenges may lie ahead.
1. Get the Board on-board:
The whole board needs to be engaged with the process of recruiting new members. The first step of any recruitment process is to ensure that you know what you really need. The best way to go about this is to conduct a skills-audit. Bear in mind the direction of the organisation and anticipated projects or challenges that may be faced in the future, to ascertain the kind of expertise the board will need to make well-rounded and informed decisions.
2. Draw up an interesting role description
Once you have identified the key skills and experience your board needs to excel, it’s time to draw up a role description. Try to avoid focusing on the standard duties of a trustee, instead highlight the most interesting aspects of the role. For instance, outlining the challenges faced by the organisation as well as its future prospects will breathe life into the role and give a sense of what issues the new trustee will be engaging with in real terms. In addition, it’s always a good idea to include a sense of what the impact of the role will be on the organisation and what benefits the new trustee can expect to receive by joining the board.
To ensure you get a diverse mix of applications, it’s really important to promote the role as widely as possible. Many organisation still limit their recruitment process to their personal network of connections and, whilst this may prove effective and save a little time, in the long run it’s much more beneficial for the organisation as a whole to look further afield: advertise externally using online job-boards, utilise social media, create a page on your website advertising the role and don’t rule out utilising a recruitment service. The quality and number of applicants is going to be largely dependent on how thorough and broad your publicity of the role is. Remember, there are a whole host of free resources out there specifically designed to help non-profits source trustees from a broader pool of candidates: TrusteeWorks, Small Charities Coalition Trustee Finder, Do-It, CharityJob, NCVO Trustee Bank.
4. Communication, communication, communication
It’s really important to ensure that, when you have received applications you make prompt contact with the applicants. Due to voluntary nature of the role, it’s wrong to assume that an applicant will remain interested indefinitely, particularly if there is a significant gap between receiving the application and interview. Taking the time to thank your applicants for their application and to set out a clear time-frame for the process reinforces the professional approach of your organisation and works wonders in retaining a candidate’s interest up until the point of interview.
5. Short-listing and Interview
Hooray! You’ve chosen a new board member! This is great news but you’re work isn’t done yet. To make sure that your new trustee takes the role seriously and, equally, is empowered to work to the best of their abilities you need to ensure that they have a clear, in-depth understanding of how the organisation functions. Make sure they have a copy of the memorandum and articles of association. If they are new to trusteeship, direct them to the appropriate resources so that they are completely clear about their responsibilities. Arrange an opportunity to meet the staff and, most importantly, the CEO, to get a feel for who runs the organisation and how they do it. If there are still minor question marks over the new board member, invite them to join board meetings as an observer. It’s better to make sure you have the right person in place through careful induction than to end up with a trustee that doesn’t fit the bill.
As in any job, it’s important to ensure that your new trustee is comfortable in their role and that they feel supported and empowered to contribute to the decision making of the board to the best of their ability. To this end, it’s really useful to touch base with the new trustee 3-6 months after their appointment. This is usually undertaken by the Chair in a private setting that allows any issues or concerns to arise outside the scrutiny of the board. This is also a really valuable moment to take stock of the trustee’s initial impressions; remember that they bring a fresh pair of eyes to the practices of the board, the culture of the organisation and its future prospects. For this reason, it may well be the case that they have noticed things which longstanding board members have not.
This blog by Luke was originally published on the Third Sector blog.
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.
Having had great success in our work with students’ unions over the last few years, the TrusteeWorks team is excited to be moving forward with NUS in a more formal capacity as preferred supplier.
We are confident that this relationship will give us the opportunity to help many more students’ unions source fantastic external trustees.
Reach Volunteering has entered 2014 on a strong note! We have secured long-term funding from institutions like GlaxoSmithKline and City Bridge Trust and plan to introduce iReach, our new web-based platform. This will dramatically increase the volume, range and quality of skilled volunteering across the U.K.
iReach will come into service this summer, building an online community where charities and skilled volunteers meet, interact, and find their ideal match. It will create an increased number of matches and significantly reduce Reach’s transaction costs.
Reach had an excellent 2013 helping to place 20% more skilled volunteers than in the previous year, representing an estimated value of £8mn worth of skills transferred into the sector.
A Reach highlight was the decision to make our Trusteeworks Matching Service free from 1 November for charities with an annual turnover of less than £1mn. This led to a 150% increase in demand for the service.
There was a huge surge in volunteer registrations in the second half of the year, with an average of 167 new volunteers joining the Reach register every month, double the amount for the same period last year!
Charities continually need to fill vacancies in key roles, particularly as trustees. Reach, as the U.K’s leading skilled volunteering charity has been providing this invaluable service for more than 30 years. Our placement advisors are widely respected for their expertise and enthusiasm in finding the right match between skilled volunteer and charity.
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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.
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Reach Volunteering has received a £120,000 grant from City of London Corporation charity City Bridge Trust which will support our TrusteeWorks service in the London area over the next three years.
TrusteeWorks, which has been running for three years, helps us to recruit Trustees for small and medium-sized charities who find it difficult on their own to source enough Board members with the right skills and experience.
The Grant is great news. We are coming up to our 500th trustee placement and it’s great to know we will be able to continue to make an impact by strengthening charity boards in London.Charities we have helped in London include:
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