A trustee is the most important person in a charity. They oversee the running of the charity, set the overarching strategy of the business and ensure that their goals are being achieved. By bringing a variety of skills and experiences from their working lives, individuals can make a real difference to a cause that is close to their heart. Currently there are 180,000 trustees in Scotland according to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR).
There are a variety of benefits to being a trustee. Firstly it is a fantastic way of gaining further experience of management roles. No matter what role you play, you are making a huge contribution to a charity and the community as a whole. Working as part of a team of people in a variety of fields is a tremendous boost to your skills and helps your CV. Employers are often looking for people who have outside interests and by committing your time to a good cause whilst developing your skills puts you at an advantage.
Despite the various benefits, being a trustee is certainly a position not to be taken lightly, it is a big responsibility for anyone. Trustees are responsible for the future of the charity. You need to put the interests of the charity first ahead of anything else. It can also be a big commitment as each charity is different and some may want you to put in a lot of time, whilst others may be more manageable to fit around your life. Making sure a charity is the right one for you is vital. From the management style of the board to ensuring that the aims of the charity fit in what you want to do is very important.
Even though the UK is one of the best countries in the world for volunteering, it doesn’t necessarily translate to people becoming trustees. In Edinburgh alone there are 1800 voluntary sector organisations of which 90% have a vacancy of some sort at a senior level. This highlights firstly that charities are missing out on the talent and innovation in order for them to be successful but also that there is an opportunity to contribute to a wide variety of charities whatever your experiences and whatever you have an interest in. There is role out there for just about everyone.
There is a stereotype that trustee positions are reserved for older people who use their experience to help get a charity running smoothly. However whilst it may be true that the average age of trustees is 57, with 67% aged over 60, there is a real need for young people to get involved. A real mix of youth and experience ensures that a wide range of perspectives are heard. An older trustee may have vast experience of running a business but may not be as strong at relating to younger people. Young people can bring expertise of technology and bring a hunger and passion that benefits any charity. Everyone can learn a great deal from being on the board of a charity.
Therefore, whilst there are some challenges to being a trustee, it is a position that can be tremendously beneficial on a personal level and has the potential to do a lot of good in the community. With such a scope of skills required to help charities progress it is something that almost anyone can help to make a difference to the third sector and be very rewarding to those who decide to become trustees.
Trustees Week is 7-13 November. Charity Careers is posting this feature as we are recruiting a lot of board members this month. Have a look at http://www.charitycareersscotland.co.uk/ for details about these positions.
Written by Adam Lawrie
©Charity Careers Scotland