Trustee Interview – Malcolm John

Name: Malcolm John

Charity: Young Harrow Foundation

Bio – Personal and professional experience and passions

I’m currently trustee and Chair of the Young Harrow Foundation and trustee of Anti-Slavery International. My professional career has been mainly public sector – central government (managing regeneration programmes) and local government (external funding) but I also spent five years in the private sector as social policy adviser to BG/National GrId Transco. I’ve been a trustee of several charities over the last eighteen years as well as a Committee Member of BBC Children in Need London and South East Advisory Committee. My passions are playing tennis and squash, eating (to provide balance!) and shopping avidly whilst on my twice yearly holidays in California!

What does your charity do?

The Young Harrow Foundation is a new charity set up in 2015 and primarily funded by John Lyon’s Charity and City Bridge Trust to strengthen the capacity, develop partnerships and access funding for not for profit organisations working with children and young people in Harrow. It is one of seven Young People Foundations in London supported by John Lyon’s Charity to find sustainable solutions for charities which have to meet the increasing needs of children and young people at a time of decreasing public funding.

Q&A Questions

1. How long have you been a trustee?

I’ve been a trustee of Young Harrow Foundation for two years and a past trustee of a number of other charities for eighteen years

2. What made you want to become a trustee?

I saw it as a new experience and a good opportunity to use the diverse range of skills and experience I’ve gained throughout my working life to help the charities with which I’ve been involved work more efficiently and effectively for the benefit of their service users.

3. Why did you want to support a charity in the children and young people sector

I’ve previously supported charities in several sectors building on my jobs working with a range of disadvantaged people and communities, including children and young people. So the invitation to apply to become a trustee of the Young Harrow Foundation fitted well with my skills, experience and understanding of issues facing children and young people.

4. Did you know much about this charitable cause before you became involved as a trustee?

The Young Harrow Foundation is a new charity so I didn’t have a lot of knowledge of them. However I relished the chance to be in at the beginning of and help shape an exciting and challenging initiative.

5. What do you feel trusteeship adds to your personal and professional development?

I feel trusteeship has enhanced my skills in leadership, problem solving, strategic planning, being more outcomes focused and in being willing to work by consensus.  Trusteeship has also given me a deeper understanding of day to day issues which staff in charities face.

6.What value have you been able to add to your charity with your personal and professional experience?

As a new charity, I’ve been able to bring my governance experience from previous trusteeships to help Young Harrow Foundation ensure Board meetings are well planned, set up its policies and procedures, establish task and finish groups for trustees and staff, lead the drawing up of its strategic plan and openly recruit for new trustees.    My professional knowledge of the voluntary sector including the children and youth sector, and my recent work experience of bidding for external funding have both brought added professional value and expertise to the Young Harrow Foundation.

7. What do you think is the biggest challenge currently facing charities?

It’s difficult to generalise and I expect varies from charity to charity depending on size, sector, structure etc.  I guess that identifying where the next funding is coming from – particularly for core costs –  when one pot of funding ends,  is a pretty big perennial challenge and with that the need to identify diverse sources of restricted and unrestricted funding.

8.What would you say are the important attributes a trustee should have?

Commitment to putting the time in (not just attending Board meetings!), independence of thought and willingness to challenge, ability to listen and offer considered opinions, and always being able to focus on the big picture.

9. If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about becoming a trustee what would it be?

I’m going to indulge myself with two pieces of advice. Don’t just do it because someone’s asked you but because you care about the cause or the area of work and believe that you can bring valuable skills and experience. Also check out the charity carefully so that you go into it with eyes wide open!