Why I’m a charity trustee

Last year I joined the board of Hands Inc – a small health and well-being charity in Hackney, east London – and I was recently elected as chair. For Trustees Week 2018, I wanted to highlight what motivates me and what I gain from volunteering as a charity trustee.

Giving back

According to the UK Civil Society Almanac, the top reasons that people volunteer are, ‘I wanted to improve things or help people’ (49%) and ‘the cause was really important to me’ (32%).

I lead a privileged life – I’m lucky to have the resources to afford complementary healthcare, go to yoga classes, be a member of a gym and so on. Volunteering as a trustee enables me to give something back: to a society from which I have received so much, and to a cause I believe in. Since 2015 I’ve found myself with a chronic health condition and the best advice and treatments have been those which I’ve paid for privately. I want to help make such services available to people that can’t afford them, as Hands Inc does.

Using my skills

Being a trustee requires a range of skills. You need to be able to work with others and make collective decisions, offering a constructive but critical perspective. You have to manage sometimes complex relationships. You also need the ability to put yourself in the shoes of a service user and understand what they need, while at the same time being business-like and making prudent financial decisions.

Many people might not realise that they have these transferable skills. Chairing a charity plays to my strengths. We recently recruited and advertised for a new member of staff and I was able to draw on all my past management experience in this process.

How it helps me

Being involved in a small charity is a sobering reminder of how things are in the ‘real world’. NCVO is a secure organisation with assets and stable income. We have skilled people that manage our websites, our human resources, our finances, our IT infrastructure and so on. However, at Hands Inc, all these jobs fall on the same person and it is often very hard to find the time to do all the things that are required of charities. It would be easy for me to sit in the ivory tower of NCVO and not have this valuable understanding.

My advice

Volunteering is good for you. Aside from social and professional benefits, NCVO research has shown that volunteering can improve mental well-being and indeed physical health too.

If anyone out there is thinking about contributing to society in some way, becoming a trustee of a charity could be worthwhile and rewarding. There is a lot of information and support available for trustees, in particular on Knowhow Nonprofit and How Charities Work.

To find out about locally based charities you can contact your local council for voluntary service or voluntary action organisation, which are listed on NAVCA’s website, or NCVO’s trustee bank, or Charity Job. And if a trusteeship seems like too much responsibility, there are unlimited ways you can volunteer, by contacting your local volunteer centre. Do it now!

 

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Lev Pedro Lev is our public services senior officer. His work supports voluntary organisations to succeed in tendering for public service contracts and develop consortia. He also leads on NCVO’s relationships with infrastructure organisations.

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