David Attenborough

Britain’s unsung national treasure: Trustees

By Ruth Gripper 18 January 2017

I recently heard someone refer to charity trustees as a national treasure. Yes, I thought, that’s it!—that is exactly what they are. This group of more than a million people up and down the country may be much harder to picture than David Attenborough cuddling a baby gorilla. But national treasures they are none the less.

Trustees’ Week every November is a way for the sector to celebrate and promote trusteeship, but in reality it’s something we should more often. The Charity Governance Awards, the BAFTAs of the charity sector, (entry for which close on Monday) give us another official occasion to celebrate the best of charity trusteeship.

Because really, why would anyone be a trustee? On the face of it, it’s a completely unappealing prospect: potentially unlimited personal liability and hours of work for no pay. Grappling with unfamiliar issues and jargon. The petty frustrations that seem to be involved in any scenario involving a group of different personalities coming together to make something happen.

And yet still people do it. Why? A sense of public spiritedness, of giving something back. A desire to put the skills and experience gained in another part of your life to good use. A way to make use of the bit of free time you find you have on your hands, and maybe build your CV at the same time. Because, despite everything, it’s fun, and it’s extremely rewarding. Because—and here’s the crucial thing—you believe in what you are trying to do.

If all that hasn’t put you off, the Trustees’ Week website is a good place to start looking for trustee roles. Meanwhile at NPC we help charities to be as effective as they can be, and a big part of that is helping trustees to be as effective as they can be. We do this in a range of different ways: producing free practical briefings and resources, running events for trustees in partnership with the Clothworkers’ Company to help share knowledge and experience, and through our consultancy work which increasingly sees us working with boards as well as executive teams.

It’s not just helping people develop in their roles, though—we want to celebrate what is already great in trusteeship, which is why we support the Charity Governance Awards. ‘You get back more than you give’ is a reflection that many charity trustees would recognise. Well, the Awards are a small way for us to help give something back.

So if you know (or are a part of) a board that has been doing sterling work, why not nominate them for an award?

Entry for the Charity Governance Awards is free and closes on the 23 JanuaryHurry up and get your nomination in!