Updated: Jul 13
Is Becoming a Young Trustee For Me?
A little more than a year ago I was thoroughly scunnered, it wasn’t a secret that I was unhappy. I’m very career-driven and had been unsuccessful in a promotion, without sounding too dramatic I felt like I’d had my tether cut and had been cast adrift.
I knew that for my own sanity I needed a new focus, the people in the new roles were good friends of mine so it wasn’t fair to hold on to this negativity.
After exploring my options I knew I wanted to stay within my current organisation as how I felt wouldn’t be forever – but I needed something else to throw myself into.
Some people take on home renovations or learn to play an instrument, I started a blog and discovered the Young Trustee movement.
The Government describe a Trustee as:
“Charity trustees are the people who share ultimate responsibility for governing a charity and directing how it is managed and run. They may be called trustees, the board, the management committee, governors, directors or something else.”
The Young Trustee project is active across England and Wales, but it got me thinking.
I came across Spinal Injuries Scotland on GoodMoves while looking into organisations accepting trustee applications. Straight away the charity resonated with me as they provide peer support for spinal cord injured (SCI) people, as I have spinal issues myself I knew it was something I could really get behind.
They also highlighted in their application that they were looking for specific traits and skillsets to add to their board; young people with a passion and drive for change was one of these.
My main concern initially was that I don’t have any expert knowledge – what on earth could I bring to the table?
Young Trustees Movement on Twitter highlight the problems being faced by boards across the UK.
Kira Lewis is 19 and is a young trustee of two boards:
“With dire statistics such as one in 12 trustees being called either David or John, less than 3% of charity trustees being under 30 and less than 1% being under 25 – it’s no secret that diversity is an issue.
People have been talking about board diversity for decades – what we need now is to combine this with meaningful action. There is already brilliant work being done in this space – but there is so much more to be done.
I’ve joined the movement to accelerate the pace of change, be part of a supporting network and to shine a light on best practice.
If you work or volunteer in the charity sector – we need you to get involved by pledging your commitment to the Young Trustees Movement.”
I began to consider my skill set – yes I have my digital knowledge and experience through my degree, but what else?
I realised that through my day to day job, the workshops I deliver and the young people I teach, I’m good at communicating and I can engage. I’m also good at taking information objectively and making an informed decision – these alone I have learned are a great addition to a trustee board.
I joined at a point where there was a lot of transition, some of the trustees had recently left and there were a few new faces, this meant that my role has been quite hands-on but also that I’ve been given some real opportunities.
I have built upon my networking skills and have had the opportunity to interview for new roles we have been able to create and it’s allowed to feel that I have made a real difference to a worthwhile organisation.
One thing that being involved with SIS as a young trustee has taught me is that I’m capable – but I just need to believe it. I worried that as a board I would be overlooked or talked down to – but this could couldn’t have been further from the truth.
The experience this has given me is invaluable, I’m currently assessing and discussing my capacity to get involved with two other wildly varying organisations.
While trusteeship isn’t for everyone, it’s something I’d highly recommend.
“I’ve always wanted to work with a charity, and my plan had been to sell my business and then do something amazing with that money. But in 2017 I saw the news about the boat of refugees who were marooned off the coast in Greece and I just couldn’t believe nobody would claim them. It made me so unbelievably sad I had to do even something small to help. I realised we can all make a small difference, whoever we are.
“I found a volunteer job post for a Marketing Coordinator at AFRIL (Action for Refugee in Lewisham) in 2017 and applied for it. I managed most of the marketing, along with their amazing Marketing Trustee, at AFRIL for 2.5 years and then the Founder started another charity and asked me to be the Marketing Trustee there. I loved the idea of starting all of the marketing from scratch and being involved from the beginning so I said yes.
“Being a young trustee is amazing. It gives you a sense of how a charity is run – from the legalities to setting up bank accounts to finances and fundraising to marketing. It helps you connect with people nearby, which gives you a sense of community and connection in your local area. I have a content agency, which is a very specific niche so I love being involved in the whole marketing strategy for Refugee Café now. And I’ve picked up skills like talking to people from any background, public speaking, running events and so much more.”
You need to be able to commit and apply yourself to something in the best interests of others and in the case of SIS – be sensitive in your approach. Charities are in place for a reason, it’s highly likely you’ll encounter individuals from all walks of life with very different experiences.
You can check out current trustee roles advertised on GoodMoves HERE