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Trustee Networking – July 2013

It was wonderful to see so much enthusiasm at last night’s ‘Trustee Networking’. Far from being ‘pale, male and stale’ as one chief executive had recently described the average charity trustee, the attendees were as fun and diverse as the charity sector itself – in fact, you couldn’t have planned a broader audience, even with a bespoke ‘guest list’! It was great too, to see a good range of existing trustees, and representatives of charities looking to fill trustee roles and vacancies. As the second such event we have organised, we were delighted with the result.

Our speaker for last night really managed to raise the temperature on a balmy summer’s evening. It was interesting to note, as an observer, that before Dr Cliff Ferguson of Glad’s House took to the stage, the atmosphere was polite but slightly formal, as if the whole idea of ‘Trustee Networking’ meant that one had to behave in a slightly more restrained way. Cliff, with his relaxed humour and laid-back style burst those bubbles straight away, and seemed to hit a chord with everybody in the room. At the end of his talk (more of which in a second), the atmosphere was as warm and buzzy as our general monthly ‘Charity Networking’ events.

Having Cliff as a speaker comes thoroughly recommended. He really does know so much – and still professes to be learning – but it’s his ability to engage with a person which really shines through. His experience of being a trustee at both a small and large charity was an eye opener, and I thought it might be useful to summarise a couple of the key points he made into a list of top considerations for potential trustees to think about…

Why do you want to become a trustee?

This may seem an obvious place to start, but think about why you want to be a trustee, what you can bring to the role, and what you will get out of it. Think too what you are really passionate about. Cliff’s advice about choosing a cause about which you are passionate also helps remind you that if you become a trustee for the sake of becoming a trustee, you are also denying the charity somebody who might be more committed and enthusiastic about the charity. On top of this, it is harder to put in the extra effort for a cause which doesn’t quite grab you…

Small or large charity

Size matters, even when it comes to choosing a charity! Cliff’s main advice is best summarised as follows: if you want a more intensive, hands-on role, then perhaps you should look at joining a smaller charity. If you want a more strategic role, with responsibility for taking top-level decisions, then perhaps look for a trustee role in a larger charity. Remember also that smaller charities are as likely to take somebody on for their general skill set, whereas the larger the charity, the more they are likely to be interested in specific skills or experience (eg: finance, marketing, legal knowledge) you may have to offer.

Don’t be seduced…

Being invited to join a board of trustees can be really flattering, but do your research! Remember that being a trustee involves certain legal responsibilities which should be understood before entering into such a role, and so research into a charity’s finances, plans, strategies for financial security, etc. is essential before saying ‘I will’…

What being a trustee can do for you…

Being a trustee is great for your career or own development, for a number of reasons. For junior managers, it’s a chance to demonstrate your ability to act and think strategically, as well as demonstrate that you can take responsibility. For transferees from the private and corporate sectors, becoming a trustee allows you to effectively engage with the charity sector without making a full-time commitment, a ‘try-before-you-buy’ if you will. Furthermore, if you have designs on running your own charity one day, gaining experience as a trustee is essential. The knowledge gained from being a trustee is the perfect complement to knowledge gained in the work place, and is often the deciding fact in more senior appointments.


Next Wednesday sees our ever popular ‘Charity Networking’ event, and we hope to see many of you then. As always, tickets are available via Eventbrite: https://monthlycharitynetworking.eventbrite.co.uk/ and for all of our upcoming events – including the next Trustee Networking events, why not visit our new-look website, on https://www.iamrecruiting.co.uk/our-events.php


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