I would say, be confident. Trusteeship can sound like a lot to take on and
can sound like complicated, onerous, difficult stuff. Most people with a degree of common sense
and a bit of willingness to learn from those around them, because there will be lots
of support available, most people can easily make a
success of being a charity trustee. You do need to take it reasonably seriously
and don’t abandon all of your common sense. We hear stories of people who start
behaving a bit differently
when they get round a charity trustee table. But a lot of common sense, a good bit of confidence and
a willingness to learn and share – that will take you a long way forwards. I think for me in my experience of being a trustee
and a chief officer in the charity sector over the years Is to give yourself sufficient time to understand the mission
and the cause of the charity and understand the culture
and the strategic direction of the charity. And afford yourself the time to not feel pressurised
to always take on a big contributing role in the charity, feeling that you have to make contributions
on every topic, on every item. There will be some items on the agenda
for a business meeting where you feel that you are able to contribute
something to but not to others. I’ve heard over the years,
and in my own experience, in the first 2 or three meetings
I’ll perhaps contribute less
but take in a lot. So I’ll listen then articulate contributions
to whatever the item on the business is but then get more involved once
you get more confidence. So I think it is about giving yourself more time
and building up you confidence and knowledge of the organisation before you
can make a bigger contribution to the wider
work of the charity. I suppose you could say lots of complicated
things but
I’d say a couple of basics. First of all, you’ve probably come to be a trustee
with some kind of passion for something you want to do and just remember that when you are having a few troubles
or you don’t want to get up early or stay late for a trustee meeting – keep that passion. The second thing is, don’t panic! Sometimes for a first time trustee
it seems like a big thing you are taking on and yes, it is a responsibility,
but actually your not alone. It is a collective responsibility;
you have your other trustees around you
that want to support you. Yes, you should do a bit of reading
and get a basic understanding but actually you don’t need to panic –
you’ve got people around you to support you. As long as you’ve got the passion,ask
you when you don’t understand something – you’ll get there and
it will be a brilliant experience. I think the advice I would give a
first time trustee would be to feel really confident asking questions. If you don’t understand something,
if you want to know more about something, if you want to probe a bit deeper
into what the organisation is doing or the environment it is in,
feel free to ask questions. Don’t feel that you have to sit quiet
until you know everything and can contribute. The advice I’d give to a first time trustee
is to look for sources of support in terms of face to face, word of mouth
and other people you know who have been a trustee who can
help you in informal conversations. There is so much information online
but there is nothing like having that face to face conversation with
someone who has been there before. I personally found that a great source
of support when I took only first board role. The first thing I’d say is
get a really good induction. Make sure you take control over
getting a really good induction – ask for it. If there is anything there that
you are not sure of, just keep asking
those questions. The second thing is linked to that,
when you’re part of the meeting and you have been asked to make a decision,
don’t’ think that there are any daft questions. You need to make sure that you
fully understand the question that you are being asked, they answer you are
giving and the implications for that. I think the advice I’d give a
new trustee it to really think about the role in three broad areas. One as trustee is governance, compliance –
looking at the technical stuff that you
will learn about being a trustee. The second is being a leader –
representing the organisation externally,
internally and leading that organisation. The third area is thinking about
a trustee as a volunteer. The technical competences you have
that you bring to the table that you can support the organisation with. By thinking about it in those three ways,
you can make a meaningful contribution. The advice I would give to a first
time trustee is to find as much as you can about the organisation you are thinking
about getting involved with so you have
got a fair idea. When I became a trustee, I replied to
an open advertisement that said they
wanted 2 to 3 days a year. The reality is, 6 years on, I am loving being
involved in the organisation but it has been a far greater time commitment than that. I’m not sure if I have got involved if
I had known the commitment beforehand but I have loved every minute.