November 09, 2022


Today I’m delighted to speak with Anna Phillips. Anna is a legal director at Foot Anstey and is the firm’s Head of Charity Property. She’s also involved with a number of organisations and it was great of her to share her insight with me.

Hi Anna, thanks for chatting to me today. Let’s start with what charity/charities are you involved with and how and why did you first become a Trustee?

I’ve got of organisations with which I am involved at the moment, the first of which is that I’ve been a Trustee of the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance ('DSAA') for coming up 7 years.... so quite some time.

I got involved as it’s always a charity I’ve been interested in and it was complete serendipity when it transpired they were seeking someone with my skillset at the same time as I was looking to be involved. I’ve obviously been involved with a lot of different charities in my professional life, all with important causes, but I just felt that the air ambulance makes such a huge difference and is a phenomenal resource for our local community. It also happens that DSAA's offices are right on my doorstep!

Having joined, I’ve learnt so much more about what DSAA do, and the team blow my mind on a daily basis – everyone involved pushes boundaries of what’s achievable and I’m incredibly proud to be a part of their team.

Apart from the Air Ambulance, I've also been involved with the committee for Plymouth Children in Poverty, which isn’t a charity in its own right, rather it’s a campaign arm of The Drake Foundation in Plymouth.

I got involved in this as part of another initiative run by Millfields Inspired, a charity in Plymouth that runs a widening horizons project to broaden horizons in young children. Here at Foot Anstey we are involved in that project and invite a class of 9 and 10 year olds into our office to experience what a workplace is like and expand their aspirations. I was quite scared at first – wondering what bringing a class of school children into a working legal office would mean! But we’ve developed the most amazing programme that the kids really love. It brings them in as “secret agents” to spot and identify certain people (which provides an office tour) and then interview some of the individuals about their role in an “apprentice” style. Big shiny offices can be a real social barrier to many children, and this helps break that down those barriers and shows them the various different careers within a law firm – apprentices, concierge, lawyers, IT, HR, Business Services etc.

This led to be me being involved in Plymouth Children in Poverty to create a longer-term programme to assist these children with a variety of social challenges. We coordinate lots of different programmes for various interventions during childhood aiming to provide inspiration, education and aspiration, in multiple ways which helps to promote positive outcomes.

I got involved with that organisation because I’m absolutely passionate that every child should get an even start in life, and sadly that isn’t always the case.

That sounds like a fantastic initiative and two brilliant causes to be involved with. What do you enjoy about being a Trustee and what do you get from it?

Oh - so much, absolutely tons! I could waffle forever about this but I’ll cut it down into 3 main points:

Number one is having the privilege of helping organisations that are doing good in the world – it’s a fantastic feel good factor that I think everyone can get something from!.

Number two, I get to meet some phenomenal co-trustees and get an insight into their skills and the world they work in. I would never have otherwise worked alongside a senior consultant from Musgrove and now I know that you can separate blood and put it back together, so it lasts for longer, and learned about helicopters or more about investment or accounts! It broadens my commercial and personal knowledge and furthers my career – I feel I have become a more insightful person as a result.

Finally, it’s just hugely interesting at a personal level. It’s got me involved in things I never knew I’d be involved in, and it’s so fulfilling.

You were involved in a significant charity (the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance) at a comparably young age. How do you think more people younger people can be encouraged to be a trustee?

I actually think a lot of that is in the gift of employers – it’s incredibly helpful if employers are supportive of you giving your time. There’s certainly something to be said about board diversity and timing of meetings but if you’re able to comfortably take time out of your job to be involved it frees you up to perform and contribute in a way that you might not be able to if you were squeezing it in at the end of a long working day.

Foot Anstey provide 2 days of “CSR hours” that staff can take out to contribute to the community – so that allows, for example, for 4 half day board meetings per year. The fact that they’re flexible and allowing that, rather than having to work on charity work outside of your normal working day is important. We all give our own time as well but this approach is incredibly supportive!

One thing I don’t think is said enough is that employers can rest assured that if they free up people’s time to become trustees, they’ll get that value back 10-fold – with experience, with what people directly learn, with contacts etc. You volunteer because you want to contribute but there is also so much to gain, both personally and for your employer.

I also think that the more diversity you have on a board, the more you breed diversity. It can be incredibly nerve-wracking and intimidating entering a board of people with more experience than you but the more you see people that a board needs lots of different input, the easier it is. Representation is key.

In terms of board commitments, I think more could be done to mentor people onto a board, whether that’s a volunteer who comes along and sits in on board meetings to start with, or whether it’s more experienced trustees taking newer ones under their wing – it’s helpful whoever you are and allows you to feel you can contribute in a more meaningful way more quickly.

There’s also a lot to be said for people valuing what they can contribute – don’t underestimate that. You bring something completely new in terms of your knowledge or your generation. Whether this is knowledge of social media and tech savvy or simply knowing your own generation, it’s all really important. In the world we live in at the moment, fundraising is more and more challenging, and charities need to be reaching out to the younger generation in a way that’s relevant to them. Why not ask younger people directly?!

Some great and really helpful thoughts there - what tips would you give anyone who is thinking about becoming a trustee?

  1. Chose a charity that you really believe in and that you’re passionate about.
  2. Do your due diligence on the charity. It is a big responsibility and whilst you could choose to step into a charity that’s struggling, it may not be right for your first step out. Don’t just go to the first charity that asks you - take time to consider if you can really help strategically rather than just be firefighting.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are no silly questions and it’s what trustees are there to do - respectfully and appropriately provide a challenge. You don’t want an echo chamber and making your voice heard politely and appropriately is one of the best things you can do.

Overall - don’t be afraid to do it – just absolutely do it and don’t underestimate what you’ve got to contribute.

Thanks so much Anna, that was fascinating to hear and your passion for the causes that you work with really comes through in every word that you speak – hopefully it can find its way through the screen and encourage more people to find their passion.


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