November 07, 2022


Today I’m delighted to speak with Geoff Pateman. Geoff was a Finance Manager by trade, working in a variety of large businesses. Since retiring he has been involved in a number of charities as a Trustee, and currently holds the role of Chair at Mind in Somerset.

Geoff, thank you ever so much for your time. What charities are you or have you been involved with?

I started my life as a Trustee at the West Somerset Railway Association, where I was a Trustee and Treasurer back in 2012. This then led to me joining the Board (and being Company Secretary) for West Somerset Railway PLC from 2013 to 2017, and alongside that I was a Trustee and Treasurer at Mind in Taunton and West Somerset, a role I took up in September 2013.

When Mind in Taunton and West Somerset merged with South Somerset Mind in 2018 to form Mind in Somerset, I continued my role as Treasurer, and was appointed Chair in May 2020, a role that I still hold.

That’s some chunky roles you’ve undertaken! What do you enjoy about being a Trustee and what do you get from it?

What I particularly now enjoy is trying to use my skills to develop the efficiency and effectiveness of Mind in Somerset. This means I operate at a more senior level than when I was employed and am instrumental in shaping the direction of the charity rather than just a ‘cog in the machine’. This has helped me develop a broader range of skills (not just finance) and kept me occupied on something worthwhile; keeping my brain active (hopefully!).

The great part about being involved in any charity is that you’re working to add value to service users rather than primarily working to add value to shareholders

You’ve been involved in a number of charities for over a decade now - how do you think more people can be encouraged to be a trustee?

A lot of this comes down to barriers – whether they’re structural, cultural, age-related or other barriers. In order to break these down, I believe we need to encourage companies to support and promote trusteeship within their workforce to attract younger trustees. An easier way to attract trustees with more experience would be to mention the option as part of retirement planning.

My opinion is that there’s little point in encouraging more people to become trustees if they are not suited for specific roles. More work could certainly be done within Boards to identify skill sets needed and how potential trustees can be ‘upskilled’ to fulfil these skills

Finally, I’m a believer in the need to pay trustees, a concept with which I have no problem. My experience of charities is that the skill and commitment within Charity Boards varies considerably and often strategy is determined more by CEO and Senior Management Teams. I can’t see the problem of having paid trustees who have the required level of skills and commitment for a charity.

What tips would you give anyone who is thinking about becoming a trustee?

Volunteering to become a Trustee can be a truly rewarding thing to do no matter what stage of life you are in. It’s a fantastic way to give something back to a cause you care about. You’ll be playing an integral part in the way the charity is run, ensuring it remains sustainable and financially viable.

It’s also a great way to meet new people from a range of different personal and professional backgrounds, and a fantastic opportunity to learn new things and improve your CV. I would like to hear more people speaking about this and being an advocate for volunteering.

In terms of tips, I think the point I raised earlier about considering what you can offer for a specific role is also relevant here. Make sure you understand what is expected of you (time/role etc.) and do your research – look at their accounts on the Charity Commission website, look at their website to see what they actually do – and try and find their strategic plan so you know what you’ll be contributing to. Finally – talk to other trustees, certainly those involved in the charity but others as well.

Geoff, many thanks for your time, it’s an interesting insight into someone who has experience of Board operation at a high level and will hopefully give some practical tips to those looking to get involved.


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