Being a Trustee at VCH – meet Jade and Rachel
Many of us will only know what a trustee is if we have worked in a charity. So what is this mysterious role? Why do people become a trustee? And why are trustees so important?
Here to answer your questions this Trustees Week are Jade Tan and Rachel Linn, two of Volunteer Centre Hackney’s trustees.
First, what is a trustee?
Trustees are volunteers who meet online or in person every month or every few months. They support the charity’s chief Executive and help a charity run effectively. Each charity’s trustee board runs a bit differently,
‘Trustees help shape a charity’s priorities and goals, as well as how it might grow over time. We meet regularly [every 6 weeks at VCH] to hear how VCH is doing in terms of projects, people and funding. We are there to make sure that the charity is staying focused on its original purpose and how it is benefitting the local community. We’re also there to make sure that VCH is complying with charity law requirements and that resources are being used responsibly.’ Jade
‘We support the CEO with taking key decisions. We review how the organisation is performing, advise on how to address key challenges and opportunities facing VCH, monitor the charity’s financial health, and provide input on VCH’s approach to raising money to ensure the important services it delivers in the community can be sustained.’ Rachel
What makes someone decide to become a trustee?
There are many reasons to become a trustee – from gaining leadership experience, adding to your CV, learning about a specific area, to building relationships with your community.
‘I wanted to do something with my volunteering that was focused on addressing challenges in the community I live in. It felt like a good opportunity to do skilled volunteering – meaning I could offer my professional expertise to support an organisation doing great things.’ Rachel
’I’ve been a Hackney resident for over six years now and really wanted to contribute to the local community. During the pandemic, I signed up as a VCH volunteer and became aware of the great work VCH was doing to support Hackney residents. I later became a volunteer supervisor and met hundreds of amazing volunteers from all walks of life. I saw the benefits to the local community and also to individuals, for instance growing confidence, developing friendships and learning new skills. When I returned to working in TV, I still wanted to stay connected to the charity, which is why I wanted to be a trustee.’ Jade
What do you get from being a trustee?
‘It has taught me how charities are run and governed, and given me skills in leadership, running teams and working in a collaborative way. It’s also helped me to stay connected to a great charity I loved working for.’ Jade
‘It’s a really enriching way to learn about what’s involved in charity leadership and management, as well as to learn from my peer trustees working in very different roles and sectors from my own.’ Rachel
How can diversity on a trustee board help strengthen a charity?
92% of trustees are white, older, and above average income and education (Charity Commission 2017). Diversity on a trustee board is incredibly important, and plays a key role in good governance.
‘I didn’t necessarily see myself as a trustee, but as a dual heritage woman, I felt that I might be able to offer a slightly new perspective and you might be able to as well. Having a diverse board of trustees is incredibly important as it means a wide range of perspectives and ideas are shared across the group, which can lead to innovation and growth. It’s especially important for VCH as we work with so many different communities and want to represent all those groups in a genuine, authentic way.‘ Jade
‘Diversity is so important to ensuring charity leadership teams hear different perspectives. All of us have unique, valuable life and professional experiences we bring with us. However, we;lll only ever know our own lived experience. If you have a group that is relatively homogenous in their backgrounds – whether that be by race, age, gender identity, professional background, or other factors – you will inevitably miss out on hearing perspectives that challenge the group norm, which could otherwise help the organisation to make better decisions.’ Rachel
‘Go for it! It doesn’t matter how far into your career you are, or whether you work in a recognised ‘profession’ (like accounting or law). Charities need advice from all kinds of different perspectives to help them make good decisions. ‘ Rachel
Volunteer Centre Hackney is seeking new trustees to work alongside Jade, Rachel and the team. Find out more