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Could you volunteer on the board of a charity?

Read about the experiences of some of Buckinghamshire’s trustees and how they got started

Being a trustee is a form of volunteering – one which involves an individual giving their time and skills for free to make sure a charity is running well and is doing what it was set up to do.

This might sound intimidating so, as part of Trustees’ Week 2023 (6-10 November), we have asked some of the county’s trustees about what motivated them to volunteer on a board to help dispel any myths around trusteeships.

Read their stories to find out how being a trustee is not only achievable but also how you could play a key role in a not-for-profit organisation.

I don’t have the skills to be a trustee

The idea of being a trustee can conjure up visions of complex legalities and financial expertise. However, you don’t need to be an expert in any particular field – many charities look for trustees who have lived experience or understanding of a particular issue, or a passion for their cause.

People become trustees for a range of reasons – not because they have a specific skillset:

  • “My motivation for becoming a trustee for the Fertility Network UK stemmed from our personal experiences. Since we were unable to have children, we understand the challenges and emotional journeys that individuals and couples face when dealing with fertility issues.  By being involved with the Fertility Network, I felt that I was making a difference to those we were facing a similar journey.” – previously Trustee with Fertility Network

In fact, becoming a trustee can be a great way to develop new skills:

  • “I became a trustee as I wanted to volunteer my expertise for a cause I care about, as well as personal and career development.” Anonymous

I do not fit the trustee stereotype

Charities thrive when they have a diverse range of perspectives guiding their decisions, and many are actively looking for individuals with different skills and backgrounds.

Your unique experiences, talents, and viewpoints can add an invaluable dimension to the board:

  • “Having a disability helps me think in a different way which can benefit more people in the company. Knowing the members we are there to provide for helps me bring the board back to the task at hand.” Trustee for The Theatre Shed.
  • “Issues raised get approached in different ways by the board members, we all have different experiences which helps create a better solution or route forward.” Anonymous

I am not an expert

Joining a charity board is a great way to acquire new skills, broaden your horizons, and collaborate with others who share your passion for making a positive impact. Starting with a willingness to learn and contribute, many trustees learn in the role:

  • “I brought life skills and management experience, along with professional and career skills but had to learn about the details of being a trustee. As with all things in life, learning is something that happens continually, and I am delighted that it has deepened my awareness and knowledge along the way.” Trustee for Curly Tails
  • “I spent a lot of time being furious about social justice – caring about your organisation is absolutely key… I’m also a keen lifelong learner and like to think I’m open to always improving.” Anonymous

I do not know anyone on the Board

Many not-for-profit organisations are keen to hear from people outside their usual reach to strengthen their board through a range of skills, experiences and backgrounds. There are hundreds of trustee roles which you can apply for – just go for it:

  • “It is important to have people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. We have board members who have long experience of the community and how it has been in the past. We also have members new to the community. It’s important to remember and accept how communities change with elements such as housing and infrastructure impacting communities both positively and negatively. New members with fresh perspectives help that acceptance of change.” Trustee for Haddenham Village Hall
  • “What was holding me back was a lack of confidence and the dreaded imposter syndrome. Your lived experience and skills are valuable and shouldn’t be discredited. Choose a charity which resonates with you and that you feel passionate about.” Trustee for Bucks Mind.

What to do next?

If you are keen to find out more about being a trustee, look at our website to get an introduction to board volunteering and find a role:

 “There are few things more rewarding than contributing to a charity that does really valuable work” – Trustee for Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity