Post by – Sophie Livingstone, Managing Director, Trustees Unlimited
Trustees Week, which takes place from 12-18 November 2018, is a time to reflect on the fantastic work that charity trustees do. As a leading recruiter of trustees, we believe it’s also a great time to highlight the benefits and rewards of being a trustee for your own career.
There are just over 1 million trustees across the UK supporting around 196,000 charities, and just under half of the UK’s trustees are women. I’m proud to say that I’m one of them. I’m currently a trustee of the Royal Voluntary Service and of the youth social action charity, Generation Change and Chair of early years charity, Little Village.
There are so many reasons people join charity boards. It’s an opportunity to give something back to society or do something meaningful outside work and it is also an opportunity to develop new skills and learning opportunities. I have learned a huge amount from my trustee roles, ranging from understanding different organisational models and pressures, to learning from the other expertise and perspectives around the table, as well as the importance of being a non executive and focusing on strategy instead of interfering with day to day operations. I have also got to know and work with people from all walks of life, which has made it all the more interesting.
At Trustees Unlimited, we find increasing numbers of working professionals are interested in joining charity boards, which can bring benefits for both the charity and the individual. Charities can gain from having people with skills and experience that their board may lack such as finance, marketing or digital skills, and many individuals can gain board-level experience earlier than they might do in their job. Their employer benefits too, as trustees bring new skills and experiences back to their organisation, including exposure to how a board operates, strategic thinking, an awareness of risk management and governance experience.
Growing demand for programmes like our board level volunteering programme, Step on Board, run in partnership with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), also demonstrates that employers are recognising the power of trusteeships as an alternative leadership programme, as well as a meaningful and sustainable way to improve their organisation’s contribution to society.
Barclays, BlackRock, British Land, EY, Google, law firm Mishcon de Reya and PA Consulting are amongst the companies who have adopted Step on Board since it launched in 2014. The programme involves an initial briefing on the charity landscape and the responsibilities of being a trustee, and our one-to-one sessions help them to make their CV board ready and to think carefully about the type of organisation they want to apply to. This means charities get high quality, thoughtful applications in response to their vacancies.
Recently we placed our 200th trustee through the programme, Hina Patel, a strategic project manager from investment firm BlackRock who joined the board of children’s charity, Starlight, a charity which provides a range of services for children with serious illnesses and terminally ill children.
Hina became a trustee to broaden her skills and experience, as well as interact with people from different backgrounds. She was also keen to do something different and make a positive contribution to society.
Hina works in strategic projects at BlackRock with a variety of different functional teams and she felt her experience would be useful to a charity given many want to become more business-like and accountable.
She was first introduced to Step on Board through a Women’s Network Initiative at BlackRock, which is focused on getting more women onto boards and who suggested it would be great way of gaining board level experience.
Since starting in June, Hina is already making a positive contribution. She is confident she will acquire new skills that can be used positively in her role at BlackRock and would recommend trusteeship to others who want to broaden their skills and contribute to society.
Another trustee who has enhanced their career through trusteeship is Greg Davies, Head of Behavioural Finance at Oxford Risk, who originally joined through a board level placement programme at Barclays. Greg became a trustee at the charity Sound and Music, which is focused on promoting new music and composition.
His background in finance and investment has been very useful for the charity. Greg is head of the finance subcommittee and has been instrumental in guiding the financial and investment strategies. The role has also been career enhancing for him. Greg has now left Barclay’s and is running a small business. He believes the board level experience at Sound and Music helped him prepare for this move. He recommends the experience to others who run their own business or those looking for NED roles or a portfolio career.
Programmes like Step on Board offer a win-win situation for charities, companies and individuals. Charities get the vital skills they need, companies an innovative approach to talent development and individuals learn new skills and have experiences not easily found elsewhere, while giving back to a cause they care about.