Could you volunteer as a trustee?


Part of NCVO’s Volunteers’ Week 2016 series.

Neal Green is a senior policy advisor at the Charity Commission. He specialises in charity governance, drawing from his experience of governance reviews and casework. He contributed to Good Governance, the Code for the Voluntary and Community Sector and represents the Commission on the Code Steering Group.

There are many different ways you can make a difference through volunteering, whether it’s on a one-off basis or something you do more regularly. And whilst you may have skills and talents that lend themselves to practical help, such as DIY, driving or admin skills, have you ever thought about skills you could use to help govern and set direction in a charity or other voluntary organisation?

Trustees are volunteers too

Not many people think of volunteering as a trustee or board member for a charity. But you could be making a difference at the highest level of an organisation. At the same time you could develop skills and experience that you might not get in your day job – setting strategy and financial plans, recruiting and overseeing managers, project management, communication skills, negotiating and influencing.

There are likely to be ‘entry-level’ trustee opportunities in your local community, such as school governors, community centres, or youth or sports organisations. You can also find organisations that recruit trustees via the Trustee Bank website. You are likely to get much more from it if you choose something you have a passion for.

For example, my wife Lisa volunteers as a Brownie Unit leader (a trustee position within Girlguiding UK). The skills and experience she has gained include working with children and young people, programme planning, budgeting, and leading and managing a team. This experience gave her a significant advantage in entering and progressing in a career delivering and managing environmental education, most recently for the National Trust and the RSPB.

Employer supported volunteering

It makes sense for employers, too. Giving your staff the opportunity of time off to volunteer as trustees can be more cost effective than a management development programme. It looks great for your reputation as a socially responsible business and good employer as well.

A growing number of employers have schemes in place to support their staff to volunteer. This may range from flexible working or limited use of office facilities to two or three days’ paid time off per year. I like this article which provides some insights into the benefits of linking employee volunteering to your firm’s strategy: How to get employee volunteering wrong by Ian Browne on LinkedIn.

Support for trustees

Is trusteeship hard work? It can be. Is it serious? Yes, it comes with legal responsibilities. But most of these are common sense.

There are lots of resources out there to support trustees:

Is it worth it? Absolutely, when you see the difference the organisation you are a trustee of has made to your community, or the difference to your own skills and confidence.


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