November 14, 2022


Throughout the course of this week, you’ve heard from some inspiring and fascinating people about their views on being a Trustee. It didn’t seem fair to end the week without me giving up some of my thoughts on the matter, and what being a Trustee means to me.

Some of you reading this may be aware that I’m a Trustee of two charities, at very different ends of the scale – I’m the Treasurer at Somerset Community Foundation (and you heard from Justin Sargent OBE, our CEO, earlier in the week) and a Trustee at Refugee Aid in Taunton (RAFT), a small charity based in Taunton that provides aid to refugees across the world, as well as those in need locally.

What inspired me to get involved was ultimately a view that I thought I could give something back to organisations that needed it, and I think that in itself can sometimes be a barrier. Speaking generally, younger people don’t always have the confidence to believe that they can offer something, and so it doesn’t come naturally to them to put themselves forward if they don’t truly believe that they can be of help. And so if I could give only one tip to younger people thinking about volunteering to be a trustee, it would be to have faith in what you can offer. Sometimes it’s a specific skill (this could be in your profession, marketing, social media, communications), but more often than not it’s your age and vision. As you’ve seen from several of the interviews I’ve done this week, it’s not always about experience, but about values, expectations and insight – all of which you have simply by being you and it’s exactly what many charities need.

I’ve learnt so much from being a trustee, at so many different levels, and different things from each organisation I’ve been involved with. At Somerset Community Foundation, we have a structured board, with sub-committees and lines of communication and authority. I’ve learnt patience, the importance of listening and the value of a good silence (those who know me will appreciate that they were big lessons!). At RAFT, we have a very different, but equally efficient set up, and I’ve learnt greater compassion, how to make a difference with my skills and how much can be achieved by volunteers with a common passion.

I love both my roles, despite their differences and it really draws out two different sides of me – which is another interesting point. We talk about what you can gain from being a Trustee (and there really is a lot!) but in order for that to really work, you have to find a role that you fit in. It may be because you have a skill to offer (although see earlier) but it may also be because you have an interest in the work that the charity does or a first-hand experience of it (lived experience is something that is always underestimated), but find somewhere where you will enjoy the experience, and somewhere that will welcome your thoughts and views.

That’s not to say that you immediately have to feel at home and that there shouldn’t be an element of questioning or conflict – perhaps an unpopular opinion, but I believe that uncomfortableness and conflict CAN be a positive in a Board – when handled correctly. Clearly you don’t want to be uncomfortable all the time and conflict can be incredibly negative. But it can also drive a charity forward, it can help people think differently, and it can ultimately come to a better result for the charity and the people you’re working with. Rarely, in my opinion, is anything truly great achieved by a group of people who think and act the same way. Sometimes you have to go outside your comfort zone to be the best you can, and that applies to groups and Boards as much as individuals. And so I guess that’s another key tip I would give to those looking to be a Trustee (and those who already are) – be prepared to be uncomfortable sometimes, and to not always go along with those around you if you feel otherwise – you’re there for your opinion and your voice so use it!

One of the key things I wanted to do from this week was to encourage and inspire others (particularly younger people) to become Trustees and I think that requires three key factors:

  • It needs an understanding both from the individual and from the charity, of the benefits that having younger people on the board can bring. If you are that person, have faith in the weight and usefulness of your presence and your opinion, and if you’re on a Board already without a young person involved, think about the benefits you’d gain from a different opinion, and be prepared that that may feel uncomfortable at first, but the gain is worth it.
  • Once a charity has acknowledged the benefits that having a younger person can bring, think about how you can best make that happen. Can you do something as simple and moving the time and day of your meetings to be more friendly to those employed? Could you offer payment of child or other care to attract young caregivers? Can you shorten board papers to lower the commitment required from already busy people? So much could be though about, but rarely happens.
  • Tied into the above, it also requires understanding from employers of the benefits that people volunteering to be a Trustee can gain. Not all charities will be able to hold meetings in the evenings or at weekends, and so could you be flexible with time to provide time for trustee meetings, or permit time to be made up differently? The benefit that individual will gain from the skills they develop will very often be of use to the employer, so it’s important that this is talked about and considered.

My final message is a simple one – there is no side of being a trustee that offers a negative – it can enhance your life, your skills and the lives of others so much more than you could ever imagine. It’s a commitment to others and a cause bigger than one person and I can guarantee (and that’s a bold statement) it will make you a better person – so do it, put your name forward, find that position. And then continue to tell everyone else they should do the same!!


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