Being a Trustee

With the recent focus on Trustees during the annual Trustees’ Week, IFC Chair, John Baguley looks at the important role fundraisers can have as a trustee…

There is no better way to understand organisations, how they work, how they achieve their goals and how they go so wrong than by joining the Board as a trustee.

As a fundraiser you are well placed to be accepted as a trustee, but don’t worry that you will be solely responsible for the fundraising, that is something to discuss early on. Be clear you are offering to bring your expertise and advice not to fundraise for free, but as you know the trustees are part and parcel of the organisation’s fundraising and you can really help to create the right atmosphere at board level. Ask for the Board Manual and check the fundraising page – do they have one? If not, you may need to write it.

Naturally, it is an honour and privilege to be able to assist an organisation you love as a trustee; but be prepared to put in the necessary effort to go through the papers before the meetings, not on the train on the way there, and to contribute to the debates. You are now responsible for what happens so speak up and make sure your voice is heard, and though you may want to branch out beyond fundraising there may be a Finance Sub-committee where you can really make your mark, or even an Hon Treasurer who needs to understand that fundraising requires investment to expand.

I have been an Hon Treasurer myself and day to day it is honestly not that difficult if you keep on top of it, but more importantly by, for example, comparing the figures over the last three years you can get a very clear idea of the direction of travel of the organisation and the key indicators of what is going right and what might be going wrong.

As a consultant, I have helped a new Board Chair to bring in an accountant to go through the books and look at where things were going wrong – and, in that case, things were going seriously wrong. Overall the organisation was shrinking, but its expenditure on certain categories that should have been falling was growing. It became apparent that a key staff member was placing ever larger orders for goods that could not be needed – it was clear they themselves were not needed either and they were quickly let go.

I write that not to put anyone off, but to remind potential trustees that this position is not just a matter of turning up and nattering, it is responsible position with commensurate demands but heart-warming, life affirming rewards.