Trustees – ‘A Charity Needs You’

Published by Sean Rodwell on 12 November 2018

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Aside from the challenge of funding cuts, increased demand on services and ever-increasing regulatory requirements, a number of charities continue to struggle with the recruitment of Trustees. On almost a weekly basis we hear from clients and contacts that are seeking new Trustees, quite often those with financial expertise. So what is it that’s making recruitment so difficult?

Perhaps one of the main reasons behind it is simply the lack of understanding and concern over what Trusteeship involves. Recent media stories haven’t shown charities in a particularly favourable light, which will contribute to the reluctance of some people to become involved with charities, but for every news story featuring wrongdoing by a charity, there could be an entire newspaper full of good news stories from the sector. This understanding gap isn’t any fault of charities, but something that will need to be addressed if the public is to be educated in what it means to be a Trustee.

Undoubtedly becoming a Trustee is a big commitment and a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It shouldn’t simply be something you do to fluff up your CV or add to your LinkedIn bio. You are required to make informed and well thought out decisions, taking stewardship of the charity and treating its assets as if they were your own, which doesn’t seem like an unreasonable requirement. Even if something does go wrong within your charity, as long as you exercise reasonable care then it is unlikely that as a Trustee you will be held personally liable.

Another potential issue is that of the time commitment involved in being a Trustee that may put some potential candidates off. But how much time is necessary as a Trustee? The typical Trustee role necessitates regular meetings, reviewing board papers, keeping up-to-date with the latest sector requirements and attending any relevant training courses. This could all add up to a significant amount of time, but as charities and the sector develop there are increased efficiencies in the Trustees role;

  • meetings can be held remotely using online conferencing facilities;
  • board papers don’t have to be lengthy documents, instead replaced with dashboards of real-time key performance indicators that can be accessed any time; and
  • training is now easily accessible through online webinars and seminars across the country, offered by training providers keen to raise the standards in the charity sector.

Whilst it’s understandable that some people may be nervous about committing to Trusteeship, the benefits of such a role far outweigh the negatives. For every reason there may be to not become a Trustee, there are many reasons to become a Trustee that would counter this. You could truly make a difference, meeting incredible people and learning some invaluable lesson in the process. In a world where people are increasingly looking to give something back, what better way to do this than to become a Trustee of a local charity and make a positive impact on the community around you, seeing the results on your very own doorstep?

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