Trustees Week: Being a Trustee

010To mark Trustees Week, we talk to our IFC UK Director, Bill King about his role as a trustee for his local church St George’s Poynton.

What is your role as a trustee?
I oversee the activities of the organisation, provide advice and guidance for the staff team, where appropriate, review policies and finances and make important decisions on future direction and priorities.

Why is it important to have trustees?
Trustees bring a mixture of skills and experience, which can be of benefit to any organisation. Their role obviously varies depending on the size of the charity – for very small charities the trustees are likely to be extremely hands-on with the day to day running, while for those with dedicated staff, they have more of an oversight and big picture responsibility. I think it is that strategic oversight which is most needed. It’s very easy for staff to get bogged down with the everyday requirements of running a charity, and it is important that the trustee body keep their eye on where the charity is going, and make sure that everything it does is to further that aim.

What’s the best thing about being a trustee?
Seeing what goes on behind the scenes and the opportunity to shape the direction of a cause or organisation you believe in.

What’s the most challenging thing about being a trustee?
There can be difficult decisions to make, particularly about staffing, which has been the case in a previous trustee role I had. Trustees have the final responsibility for the organisation, and that sometimes includes very hard choices like making staff redundant or – in some cases – taking disciplinary action.

Trustees are unpaid, what do you get out of being a trustee?
Like all volunteering, being a trustee can be extremely rewarding. I really enjoy being part of the decision making process and have learnt a lot from seeing how a number of different boards operate, and how effective trustees can push a charity forward. You learn from other board members, who come from completely different fields and bring their own skills and expertise to bear on issues.

How does someone go about becoming a trustee?
There are a number of organisations which can help people who want to be a trustees, like TrusteeWorks, or do-it.org and opportunities are sometimes posted on charity job sites. The Small Charities Coalition, who IFC works with on our First Friday free fundraising advice clinics in London have a free trustee search for those interested. Otherwise, people often become a trustee by first volunteering in other ways for a cause they care about, which is a great place to start.