To Trustee or not to Trustee?
Written by Shahida Iqbal, the Director of Manar Associates Ltd
“Come on, you will only have to attend meetings a few times a year!”
The above is one of the most common ways that an individual is persuaded to join as a volunteer on a charity board or committee. Arms are gently twisted and people feel a sense of obligation to support their local playgroup, village hall, or ‘friends of…” society.
Becoming a trustee is truly rewarding; you get an opportunity to give something back, meet new people, learn new skills, as well as utilising your existing strengths and knowledge. Research suggests that there are hundreds of thousands of people serving as trustees across the UK, all of whom are playing an incredibly important part in the running of charities.
However, do you really understand what your role involves when you join a board? Many people will get involved thinking that they will simply only have to attend meetings and that is that. As trustees, you have overall control of how the charity is run. You are responsible for making sure that the organisation is run well, does what it has been set up to do, manage risk and finances, as well as working on strategic future development.
Trustees provide foresight, oversight and insight, you don’t do ‘the doing’ – remember “noses in, fingers out”! After all, responsibility for the charity rests with the Board – the buck stops with you – and as such trustees should be focused on their statutory duty of care and ensuring the charity acts in a manner consistent with its purpose(s) laid out in its constitution or rulebook. It is therefore important to access support and training to help you develop a real understanding of your role.
Community First Yorkshire (the regional body that works with voluntary and community organisations, social enterprises and rural communities across North, South and West Yorkshire) has worked hard to develop a support package to help trustees do just that. Linked to the Charity Commission’s “The Essential Trustee Guide”, and the Charity Governance Code, the “Trustee Essentials” training bundle includes:
- A refresher for new and established trustees covering the fundamental elements of trusteeship.
- Smaller bite-size learning sessions that explore in further depth effective money management; safeguarding essentials; strategies to predict and mitigate risk; successful recruitment of new trustees and building an inclusive board.
Previous delegates have found the training sessions helpful. Philip Richardson MBE, a Trustee at Ryedale Community Transport CIO said ‘This is the first charity that I have been involved with. The things I have learnt in this workshop course have already started to bear fruit. For example, I have now read in fine detail our constitution and found that we have not been implementing it as we should. I am so impressed with this course that I have had an agreement that all our new trustees will attend it.’
Trustee training is a great way to encourage more discussion and debate within boardrooms. Now more than ever we need boards with a diversity of perspectives that enables them to better navigate uncertainty and reflect the communities they serve. A strong board with trustees understanding their legal responsibilities makes all the difference to an organisation and its future.
So, if you’ve just joined a board and are not sure where to start or you’re an existing trustee looking to develop skills and knowledge, get in touch with Community First Yorkshire today.