Trusteeship: What’s it all about?

By Matilda Macduff 31 October 2011

There’s a common misconception that the only way to really contribute to charity is financially. But you can make a huge input to a charity you’re passionate about by donating your time. This could be as a volunteer—charities such as the Samaritans, for example, rely on their loyal, skilled volunteers to provide their helpline services. But another way to contribute which is sometimes overlooked is by becoming a trustee.

This week is trustees’ week, an annual event to highlight the role of the trustee and encourage all kinds of people to get involved in charity governance. Trustees play a very important role in a charity: they set the strategy; they monitor whether it is achieving its aims; and they have a legal and financial duty of care to the charity. They also, equally importantly, act as ambassadors for the charity, telling their own networks about the work it does and attracting support for its work amongst people who otherwise may not hear of it. For a great clear summary of what being a trustee involves, see this video from Sarah King, Chief Executive of volunteering charity Reach.

No matter what you do, you probably have some skills which will be very useful to a charity. You may be a legal or financial expert, but equally you might know about building websites, hosting events, or managing staff. Wherever your skills lie, its likely you can make a meaningful contribution to the running of a charity.

Charities benefit a lot from having an engaged, effective trustee board. But trustees take a lot from the role too. Miles Templeman, the Director General of the Institute of Directors, thinks being a trustee can help you greatly in your career: being a trustee can teach you about how other organisations, businesses and people work, and allow you to learn about areas of business you wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to, and crucially often to move from ’doing’ to ‘leading’. For younger trustees in particular, this can be invaluable, allowing them to get board level experience early on in their career.

Throughout this week, we’ll be running a series of blogs written by charity trustees. We hope that hearing about their experiences can give a real insight into what being a trustee involves, and perhaps inspire more of our readers to think about becoming trustees themselves.

Find out more about Trustees’ Week and about becoming a trustee here.

If you’re feeling inspired, Trusteeworks can help you find a board vacancy suited to you.

NPC has published several reports on trusteeship, available to download free here.