Focus on quality: Trustees

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At a recent workshop I got talking to some of the organisations we work with about how to engage trustees in the quality process. Afterwards, I thought about trustees, their roles within our organisations, how involved they are, how engaged the staff are with them, and ultimately how they benefit our organisations. I know from my past jobs that trustees can be seen as distant, remote figures who show up every three months or so, attend a meeting, maybe ask a few questions, and then go after tea and biscuits.

But this is an inaccurate picture of people who are giving up their time, for no fee, and who want to help make a difference. Trustees have established roles and responsibilities that are clearly laid out, but I want to look at some of the other, non-traditional ways they contribute to the quality and success of an organisation.

Why trustees are essential for quality

Trustees are a key part of any civil sector organisation. They have ultimate legal responsibility for the organisation and critical involvement in strategic direction, financial health, good governance and nine other key areas. I have also seen trustees come in and volunteer a day or two a week, work in operational departments, answer phones or prepare monthly management accounts.

Having trustees directly involved in this way is good for everyone. Organisations are able to benefit from trustees’ skills and experience, while trustees can work in an area they’re enthusiastic about and gain an insight into what ‘life on the ground’ is like. Having a trustee work alongside the team can also make them seem more approachable to staff. In my experience, these situations work best when the trustee is managed in the same way as general staff and volunteers, with no special privileges.

Trustees can also act as ambassadors, or lead on developing opportunities within their fields. In this way, they can increase the opportunities and contacts available to charities, and help to raise awareness of their work and achievements; all of which promote future sustainability. Trustees can also act as mentors for staff and volunteers: sharing their experience, knowledge and simply listening.

Trustees have a lot to offer: they have a wide range of skills and abilities, and are involved because they want to be and make a difference. It’s worth taking a few minutes to chat to your trustees about how they would like to be more involved with your organisation. It can only bring benefits for everyone.

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Avatar photo Nadeem is the PQASSO programme manager at NCVO; his main focus is helping organisations achieve and maximise their potential by applying effective quality assurance. Nadeem has worked in the charity sector for over 10 years.

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