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Baby on board: young trusteeship

By David Bull 14 November 2014

Coming to the end of Trustees’ Week 2014, I wanted to share my recent experience of becoming a trustee at the tender age of 25.

Earlier this year, I wrote a briefing based on one of our trusteeship seminars, all about the nature of trusteeship and how to get involved. Going into it, I had a picture in my mind of a trustee—somebody wealthy, stately, white-haired and oozing with experience. The kind of person with many leather-bound books, whose office smells of rich mahogany. Somebody who broadcasts wisdom, with a seemingly endless list of amusing anecdotes that somehow deliver a serious lesson.

But there I was, six months later, at an introductory board meeting—a 25 year old in my first ‘proper job’, with an arsenal of cat videos far bigger than my stock of inspiring stories from the past.

I came across Jobs in Mind through NCVO’s Trustee Bank, a free service for anyone looking for trustee vacancies. It’s a small charity based in North London and focuses on the relationship between employment and mental health. It provides practical and emotional support to those already in work and those searching for a job through one-to-one advice, workshops and experience at its horticultural project ‘Urban Growth’, as well as therapy and counselling.

So, why there?

Like getting a job, it partly depends on what’s available . Fortunately, unlike a job there are plenty of vacancies to go around (in 2010, NCVO found that one in seven registered charities reported a shortage in trustees and management committee members). So, to begin with, Jobs in Mind had a spot going at the right time. But more importantly their work really resonates with me, both professionally and personally (and I also happen to live nearby, which is handy for getting to board meetings).

And am I out of my depth?

I could be wrong—so don’t quote me on this—but I think it’s going well so far. The board certainly bears no resemblance to the picture it previously conjured. We’re a group of six, split 50/50 between men and women; and though I am the youngest member by some way, this has always been welcomed as a good thing.

Everybody brings their own perspective to the table. We comprise various backgrounds in commissioning, accountancy, healthcare and charity work. I’m lucky to have the experience of working with both charities and funders in my day job, but I hope I also bring a youthful perspective on social media, communications and the realities of internships and entry-level jobs in the modern working world.

Of course it’s a real commitment (as NPC’s founding trustee, Peter Wheeler, says: ‘being a trustee should not be a comfortable job’). The financial and strategic stewardship of the organisation is in your hands—which is no mean feat in a fast-changing environment with increasingly scarce funding. Though board meetings take up very little of your actual time, thinking about how everything’s going and checking in with your CEO can consume much more. But it gives you a chance to be involved in something, to take on new challenges, to have an influence on the way that your charity achieves its goals, and ultimately to contribute to something you believe in; something that can make a positive difference to people’s lives.

Read our briefing about the key things every trustee needs to know, and pick up tips on becoming one for the first time.

Find out more about Jobs in Mind via its website, Facebook page, or @JobsInMind1.

This is the final post in our series of blogs for ; please do leave a comment or share on social media to add to the debate.