If your intentions for 2018 include a role working with or for a charity, it’s time you started REALLY understanding what’s involved in being a trustee.
Here, we take a look at what it means, what’s expected, and what to investigate before you go signing up your time and expertise.
If you’re already a trustee, or you work within a charity and meet the good and the bad of the trustee world on a daily basis, you’ll know we’re being somewhat cheeky about the title of this post.
After all, if any trustee is going into an organisation thinking purely about ‘what’s in it for them’ then we’d argue they’re the wrong kind of person to have a seat at your table.
Ultimately, a trustee is someone who is happy to serve behind the scenes, but to have the backs of all those ‘up front’ foot soldiers, and be continually wondering how better to serve the organisation and its objectives.
For them, this is more than a ‘CV addition’.
This is a commitment they make because they believe in the cause, because they want to contribute their skill or specialism, or because they’ve first hand experience of the operational output of the charity and want to wholeheartedly ‘give back’ in a positive way.
You might refer to a trustee as a director, a board member, a governor, or a committee member, but, be assured, if a trustee board is working well, this is WAY MORE than a team of people sitting around eating custard creams and patting themselves on the back.
You should be especially wary of any board which looks to be more fixated on the past than the future, and you should certainly be doing your homework to ensure that the atmosphere and make-up of the board suggests a genuinely good ‘fit’ for where the aspirational organisation hopes to get to in the years ahead.
Of course, it’s true to say that the perception of a trustee is still very much one of a retired individual, serving on a board and doing their best to impart wisdom acquired from many years in one particular profession or other.
That picture is – perhaps slowly – shifting.
More and more charities are recognising the need to reach out to acquire trustee support from the younger generation, not least because younger adults are also now very much a target as donors, and as regular volunteers.
Ideally, the best board would have a mix of generational input, a plethora of skills at one table, and a helpful mix of time and resource capacity, to help actively deliver on everything from strategy to events.
Here’s five key points for anyone considering a role as a trustee in 2018:
IT’S GREAT FOR YOUR HEALTH AND WELLBEING
Research increasingly suggests that becoming involved in voluntary or community based work is beneficial to our mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Being a trustee for a cause you really care about, will certainly tick that box.
THE SATISFACTION OF SKILL-SHARING
Whether you work for yourself, or as part of a major international company, it can sometimes be difficult to remember what it is you’ve learned in your sector or what your professional expertise could equate to for another cause.
By being a trustee, there’s a certain validation in allowing your experience and specialism to play out in a really worthwhile manner.
Trustee training has had limited availability in the past, but you’ll now find an increasing number of workshops and courses being carried out in East Anglia by the likes of legal firms and charity specialists.
We highly recommend such training. Not only will you educate yourself on the requirements expected of you as a trustee, but it will also give you a really useful perspective on the way you carry out your business life too.
CHECKING YOUR CHOICE
It’s flattering to be asked by any cause or charity to take a seat at their board, but here’s our big tip….CHOOSE WISELY.
Not only should you be looking to take a post with an organisation which matters to you, but do try to find out about the types of people you’ll work with, and what their ‘attitude’ is toward the cause and its objectives. You don’t have to be best friends, but having a shared positive ethos will come to be extremely important when times are tough.
IT’S OK TO MOVE ON
Just because you’ve become a trustee, or offered your time for a particular project or duration, nothing stops you moving to a new role where you feel more valued, or whether your skills can be of more use.
Like any relationship, we know that charity-commitment can have a limited shelf life for individuals, and you shouldn’t be afraid of continuing to look around at other causes which spark your enthusiasm. That’s not to say you should jump ship every few months, but equally, don’t become the person who feels frustrated on one particular board, when your offering could be a worthy asset elsewhere.
**Have you experience of being a trustee? Do you run trustee training? Want to share your views on how its benefited you? Do you have vacant trustee roles in your charity? Please contact us at via firstname.lastname@example.org