Trustees are the people who lead and run charities in the UK. There are probably a million Trustees in this country helping to lead nearly 200000 charities. And alongside them are the thousands of community and voluntary groups who may not be registered as charities but still have a board or committee made up of volunteer committee members who lead that charity.
Whether we call them Trustees (of registered charities) or committee members (for non-registered groups), they are the unpaid, unsung volunteers who decide the direction of non-profit organisations at the heart of our communities. Even if the organisation also has paid staff, paid managers or other volunteers, it is the committee members and trustees who have responsibility of the organisation. A report from 2017 calculated that trustees’ contribution to charities alone amounts to a monetary equivalent of £3.5bn each year! (Here’s a note about what Trustees are and here’s that report about Trustees)
This Trustees’ Week we all need to say thank you to those volunteer carrying out these leadership roles.
Could you be a Trustee? There’s certainly a need for more. Most committees, boards and charities have empty places around the table. Trustees are always stepping down and needing to be replaced. Freshly starting non-profits need to find people to serve on their boards to get them started. And sometimes a shake up is needed too – by getting new, fresh people onto the committees with fresh perspectives and a diversity of approaches.
If you’re over 18 and meet basic legal criteria (for example, you’re not bankrupt or disqualified) then you have the potential to be a Trustee. You just need to learn more about the role, find an opportunity, apply, get accepted and get started!
Steps to take
I think you need to…
Learn about charities and the voluntary sector a bit first. HowCharitiesWork is a great, simple starting point.
Understand the roles and responsibilities of a Trustee. The Essential Trustee from the Charity Commission will help you here.
Make a decision as to whether you’d like to become involved in leading a charity. Maybe it will give you experience, add to your CV, keep you focused, tie in with a passion you have or something else will be a reason to get you interested.
Seek out charities or organisations you’re interested in, or are local to you, or perhaps you’ve already connected with in your community. All of these organisations have a trustee board. Here’s some more advice on becoming a Trustee.
Speak to people or make enquiries to find out how to get an opportunity on a board. Maybe you need to apply at the point of their AGM. Maybe they can ‘co-opt’ you onto the board at any point. Have you got the skills they want or need? What can you offer.
Somewhere here you’re going to have to ‘sell’ yourself, perhaps go through an application process, or simply build relations to get yourself connected to a board.
Then you can just get started, go through any paperwork, have an induction, turn up to your first meetings, ask your first questions, help with a first decision and start making your impact as a Trustee or committee member.
If you are, then please feel free to speak to us at VANEL. Contact Karl (who leads on governance and trusteeship), or Liz (about volunteering). We’ve always got available trustee opportunities that need a person to step forward and apply for. Or we can help supply you with further information.
We also run a short, one hour, free workshop called “Could I be a Trustee?” which is designed to introduce you to all the ideas and issues so that you are better informed and know what your next steps are. We run these sessions when a few people have expressed interest at which point we arrange a date. Let us know if you’re interested.
Or go speak to a charity or non-profit that you are interested in. Make a direct approach to them and say you’re interested. They and you can always come back to VANEL for additional advice and support to help you further through the process.
It might also be useful to read the Welcome Pack for Trustees from the Charity Commission. This is an overview that every new Trustee should receive. So if you take a look even before you get started then you’ll be able to see the sorts of things you’re letting yourself into.
Get in touch