Trustees’ Week 2021: Hearing From VCH Trustees
Becoming a trustee is an excellent way to support the work of voluntary and community organisations whilst also building your skills, networks, and knowledge of the day-to-day running of a charity.
VCH are often approached by organisations to help them recruit new Board members and we are keen to dispel myths about what makes a ‘typical’ trustee. If you have a passion for a cause and are willing to spare a few hours each month to share your particular skills, experience and ideas you are exactly the candidate charities are looking for – no matter your age, work experience, or background.
To mark national Trustee’s Week, we asked members of VCH’s own Board to reflect on their reasons for becoming a trustee and the benefits (and occasional challenges!) of doing so:
Why did you become a trustee?
I wanted to get back into volunteering after spending some time concentrating on family and career.
I wanted to share my skills with a local charity – after discussing with my partner who had been a trustee herself in a different borough, I started looking for trustee opportunities.
That’s how I came across the VCH opportunity. Not just because I thought I could help generally, but also where I thought I could offer something on the finance side (my day job is in accounts) – as you can never have too much finance!
Andreas Michaelides, VCH Trustee
What have been the most rewarding/challenging aspects of your trusteeship?
For me there have been loads of rewarding aspects. Getting to see and hear first-hand all the fantastic work the team at VCH does, particularly over the last 18 months where they have been coordinating frontline support throughout the pandemic. Seeing the team awarded the Freedom of the Borough in recognition of this work was a particular high point.
Over the last 12 months myself and the Board have made a commitment to get more involved in staff working groups and activities, as well as Board meetings, supporting work on: diversity and inclusion; communications; staff wellbeing; internal systems; and volunteer support, amongst other things. It’s been wonderful to get to work more closely with such a passionate and hardworking team and to start to see some of this work come to fruition.
As for challenges, as a first-time trustee the first couple of meetings were daunting, and it takes time to get to know the organisation you’re supporting. But I’ve felt incredibly supported by the other trustees – and VCH’s Chief Exec Lauren Tobias – and have come to learn you’re not expected to be an expert in all aspects of a charity’s work. Getting to know and learning from Lauren, the team and the other trustees has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my experience so far. I feel I get back just as much as I put in.
Rob Sugden, VCH Trustee
What top tips might you give a new trustee?
Having been a trustee with VCH for almost two years now, my top tips would be:
- Don’t worry if you don’t feel confident advising on every area of a charity’s operations. Trustee boards are intentionally designed to bring together people with diverse skills and life experiences, so whereas one trustee might bring in expertise in finance or legal, another will bring great insight into local community organising or engagement.
- Use being a new trustee as an opportunity to learn about an issue or cause – get to know what the charity is doing and why, go deep on exploring challenges and potential solutions with the management team. As with all new jobs, there are no dumb questions, and engaging your curiosity early on will make the time you spend with the organisation more meaningful and gratifying.
Rachel Linn, VCH Trustee
What skills have you developed as a trustee?
Lots! The range of ways you can contribute as a trustee are really varied. In my two years in the role, I’ve supported the team with fundraising, recruitment, running staff workshops and in promoting volunteering in schools and other forums – learning lots of new skills along the way.
It’s improved my ability to plan and chair meetings, helped me to better understand financial accounts, and given me an invaluable insight into the day-to-day running of a vital local charity.
It’s really helped my listening and problem-solving skills too – every Board meeting we’ll be presented with new developments and challenges for VCH and it’s always insightful and rewarding to work through these with the other trustees, and to see how others approach challenges.
All these things have helped in my day job, as well as giving a great sense of achievement. I’d encourage anyone considering volunteering to look at trustee opportunities as they offer a really varied experience. And don’t be put off by misconceptions around what a trustee does or might look like – Boards are crying out for trustees that represent the diversity, creativity and lived experiences of our borough, so give it a go!
Rob Sugden, VCH Trustee