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 developing a new web-based platform which will dramatically increase the volume, range and quality of skilled volunteering across the UK by building an online community where charities and volunteers will meet, interact, and find their ideal match.
The platform – provisionally called iReach – will be developed over the next three years following Reach’s successful application for an Innovation in Giving Fund (IIGF) grant of up to £50,000.
Over the coming years the grant will help the platform to be developed, tested and brought to operational readiness using the skills of volunteers and staff supplemented with additional expertise where it is needed.
Reach Chief Executive Janet Thorne said:
“We are very pleased to have received IIGF support and are excited about implementing the new platform. Our research with charities and skilled volunteers has shown that only a fraction of the skills-based volunteering that could happen actually does so – currently, 60% of charities need professionally skilled volunteers and 48% have a board vacancy.
“There is a strong need for an online platform which allows charities and volunteers the independence to flexibly recruit and volunteer, encourages dialogue and enables them to find each other in different ways. At the end of its third year, iReach will have enabled 10,000 volunteering opportunities, helping thousands of charities across the UK fill their skills gaps.
“Charities will discover a pool of motivated, skilled volunteers, more effective and flexible ways of recruiting the right person and support and inspiration to increase the impact of skills-based volunteering on their charity. Volunteers will find loads of help to find the right opportunity as well as a radical increase in the range of ways they can offer their talents.”
Posted in News Tagged with: Big Society, Charity boards, Corporate volunteering, Creative volunteer engagement, Improving performance, Skilled volunteering, Third Sector, TrusteeWorks, Volunteer expertise
Tony Clack guest blogs
At Laterlife, as well as running our web site, we run Planning Retirement Courses all around the UK. As a result we help thousands of people plan how they are going to make the most of their lifestyle in retirement and address the hopes and concerns that they have.
Continuing to work in retirement, paid or voluntary, is one of the areas we cover because it is a very important contributor to satisfaction in retirement. It’s important that we have a balance of things that we do in retirement and in particular we need to make sure that the things we do enable us to achieve three of the essentials of retirement: staying physically healthy, staying mentally healthy and maintaining or increasing our social network.
Many retirees also want to feel that they are continuing to use their knowledge, skills and experience once they leave the workplace and importantly this can also contribute to a feeling of self-worth.
As a result, at LaterLife, we are extremely supportive of volunteering in retirement, especially when the volunteering draws on the skills, knowledge and experience of the volunteers. That’s why we have supported and publicised Reach almost since day 1 of our web site back in 1999. So volunteering with Reach not only enables you to give something back but is likely to strongly contribute to all those essentials of retirement mentioned above and to overall life satisfaction!
Talking of life satisfaction, a survey by University of Greenwich showed that those attending a planning retirement course increased life satisfaction by 19% in retirement, compared to those that hadn’t attended one.
You want to take a look at Laterlife’s free ‘How ready am I to retire?’ or ‘Retirement MOT’ self assessors and if you are looking for things to do when you aren’t volunteering try the ‘What shall I do today’ one-armed bandit for a bit of fun!
Whatever you do make sure you make the most of your later life!
Tony Clack is the founder of LaterLife. He blogs in a personal capacity.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, a World Health Organisation sponsored event promoting worldwide action to prevent suicides.
An average of almost 3000 people commit suicide daily, and it’s estimated that twenty times that number make unsuccessful attempts to take their lives.
While promoting awareness of the issues is one of the aims, getting more people involved with making sure everyone has access to help if they need it is the other.
While you might think that means volunteering on a helpline or as a befriender, these aren’t the only ways you can make a difference.
At Reach we recently put a Surrey branch of the Samaritans in touch with a volunteer Treasurer, and we’re now looking for a volunteer to fundraise for a Hampshire counselling group. Whilst not on the front line both of these are classic cases of a back-room function without which front line service delivery couldn’t function.
Whatever your background, and wherever your strengths lie, there is a way you can make a difference.
Click on some of the links below to take the first step to acting today.
If you are experiencing suicidal feelings now, you can find support immediately by calling the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90, or following this link.
As a company director with executive responsibility for the human capital of a multi-national organisation, I was well attuned to dealing, among other matters, with senior-level recruitment across five continents.
This globe-trotting role had been my ‘life’ for many years. Therefore, as I approached ‘retirement’ and relocation to Surrey, I was rather apprehensive about how I would fruitfully use the time that was to suddenly become available to me.
After making enquiries with a number of professional contacts, I was advised to contact Reach – a not-for-profit organisation focused on matching skilled and highly experienced executives with charities and trusts who had a recognised need for their particular skills. After acting on this advice, I was delighted when Reach suggested that I consider a role with them – as an executive recruiter in the not-for-profit sector.
To my great relief, my current role and responsibilities have proven to be hugely satisfying, both personally and professionally. On one hand Reach is providing a valuable service to its broad client base across the UK, on the other, the skilled volunteers are inspirational to work with.
My current project is the recruitment of experienced and inspirational business mentors for the Crossroads Care Association (CAA) – an organisation which provides support for carers in England, Wales and the Isle of Man. CCA is undergoing a major revision of its service delivery model and is looking to the broad business community for strategic thinkers who have a clear understanding of the service-delivery environment and a hands-on approach to management. I am anticipating strong interest from executives in business and government in this challenging, short-term role. Take a look at the business mentor role here.
Don Hunter is a Volunteer Placement Adviser with Reach. He blogs in a personal capacity.
My experience over the last year of volunteering within various organisations has led me to the view that there at least four different types of volunteering.
The first level is an organisation consisting purely of volunteers. It has been estimated, for example, that there are over 49,000 formally organised amateur arts groups across the country with nearly six million members. Those people work hard to create plays, concerts and exhibitions which others enjoy and will pay for. Few of the people concerned would consider themselves ‘volunteers’ and may not even like the term. However, this doesn’t matter provided each organisation recognises their value and manages them properly.
The second level is where the volunteer receives no pay but works alongside paid employees of an organisation (typically a charity). The volunteer may be working at a relatively unskilled informal task like serving in a café, ushering people to their theatre seats or collecting donations outside a tube station. If they have professional skills which aren’t being used, this may not be an issue if they have had recent experience of a demanding salaried job. Others may be frustrated at the situation. A good organisation will know which volunteers are in which category.
National Trust volunteers, for example, may have an art history degree but aren’t in a stately home to explain the paintings to the visitors. They are there to stop them touching the works of art!
Volunteers at the third level (also known as pro bono) tend to be professionally qualified and retained by a charity specifically for their technical knowledge. They may a lawyer giving legal advice or a business manager advising on project planning, risk analysis or organisational governance.
When a charity applies for funding from the Arts Council or Heritage Lottery Fund, they often need to show ‘matched funding’: an equivalent amount they have raised themselves. This can include the notional monetary value of non-cash contributions. A typical entry in a bid document might say:
This shows the difference between second and third level volunteers: the volunteer in the newly constructed arts centre and the architect who helped design it.
The final level in my definition is a trustee sitting on the board of a charity. The volunteer is again unpaid and engaged for their expertise. However, they now have a duty to protect and safeguard the charity’s resources and a personal liability for their actions. It is a strategic role in which the trustee puts ‘their nose in but keeps their hands off’ the daily operation of the organisation.
A friend of mine is both a project manager and a trained volunteer for the Samaritans. I imagine that dissuading people from suicide differs from delivering projects for a major company but I am sure they use many skills from their managerial toolkit – empathy and active listening are just two examples – to succeed in this vital role. Perhaps this shows up my definitions as being too rigid. This good Samaritan is performing somewhere between levels two and three.
At whatever level they are performing, a volunteer’s time may be free but its value to their organisation is priceless.
Terry Wynne is a volunteer with Cultural Co-operation. He blogs in a personal capacity.
The Young Foundation and Age UK Lambeth have teamed up to provide innovative self-help, peer-support groups for people 65 years and over in Lambeth.
The ‘Full of Life’ project aims to enhance important life skills and increase the wellbeing of older residents so that they feel more able to deal with day to day challenges in their lives.
The groups will meet weekly for eight weeks, starting in November, and will cover topics such a coping with change; identifying personal strengths; strategies to increase mood and wellbeing; and understanding how thoughts and beliefs impact on mood and behaviour.
We are looking for individuals or groups who would benefit from attending/holding the meetings.
Perhaps you have friends or service users who would gain from participating in a group, or a group that could really gain from the emotional resilience skills training.
We would like as many people to benefit from this exciting project so please spread the word to anyone who it may be helpful to.
Nina Mguni is from the The Young Foundation
In our recent survey, over 55% of charities told us they were seeking volunteers with marketing experience. We have selected 3 roles this week where there is a demand for marketing expertise.
Pragma is a charity that helps people to acquire the skills and to sustain and improve the quality of life from mid- life onwards.
They are looking for a marketing and sponsorship consultant to assist in the development of a cost effective marketing plan. Flexible working from home. Click here for more details.
PR and Marketing Officer is required to promote the Adventure Service Challenge Scheme (ASC scheme).Based in Bath and aimed at young people mainly 8-14 years, the volunteer would be expected to work from home. Click here to find out more.
In a recent blog for the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network, Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of the NCVO, called for more attention to be paid to back office functions.
In arguing the case for investment in infrastructure, he stresses the importance of legal, technological, governance and financial skills if civil society organisations are to grasp new opportunities, and survive long enough to realise them.
Reach is only too aware of these risks. The charities we help regularly tell us that they simply don’t have the time of the money to focus on these fundamentals.
Here’s a fairly typical comment from our 2011 skills survey:
‘We only survive because of the very long hours I invest as besides managing a team of over 100, I do fund raising, training, supervision, IT, finance, fundraising and it is a horrendous work load by any standard… we live in hope that the financial situation might change.’
Resource-poor charities that treat support functions as necessary distractions to service delivery are at high risk of failure no matter how good their frontline services are. There must be more help available for them to acquire or develop these skills if they are to survive. Living in hope simply isn’t an option.
We make it our mission to provide no or low cost access to skills to resource-poor charities and have recently redefined the skilled volunteer support we will inject into the sector. On the one hand, charities tell us they need skilled trustees. On the other they say they really need ‘doers’ who will help them implement strategies and turn good ideas into action. By providing support at every level of the ‘back office’ we can respond to this spectrum of need.
High-level strategic support : skilled Chairs, treasurers , trustees and business advisors who can provide effective governance and strategic support to the exec team.
High and mid-level business support: experts who can boost capacity in business disciplines like income generation, financial management, marketing and management information.
High and mid-level operational support : hands on doers who can provide skilled support to the back office, from database design to event management to business administration.
We still have a challenge in helping organisations to diagnose what it is, exactly, that they do need. We are working to find a way to do this by guiding charities, when they register a skilled volunteering role with us, through a series of questions and prompts that helps them to think this through.
I’ll close with one message for charities and one for volunteers:
Volunteers: we need you to continue to come forward and offer your career skills – by supporting the back office you can have an enormous impact on the frontline.
Charities: we have 2,800 volunteers ready, skilled and waiting. Please come and get them!