Chair of C3SC shares his motivation for volunteering at Board level

Trustees hold a vital role in charitable organisations as they ensure the organisation is operating within the law, finances are spent wisely and charitable objectives are met.  It’s a valuable and rewarding position that around one million people in the UK fulfil. 

Despite the high number of Trustees in the UK, there are always organisations looking for people to take on these roles.

In this article, Paul Keeping, Chair of Cardiff Third Sector Council (C3SC) tells us how he came to volunteer at this level and why others should do it too…

“I’m very pleased to have become a trustee at Cardiff Third Sector Council (C3SC), initially as a trustee and now as Chair and I would say it can be a rewarding and stimulating experience, full of learning, skill-building and leadership opportunities.

I had served on the board of a brilliant arts charity – Hijinx Theatre – back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, until potential conflicts of interest with my day job and time pressures with a young family made it less easy for me to continue.  But it ignited a bug inside me, and once I found myself with more time and freedom on my hands and was invited to consider applying to become a trustee at C3SC earlier this year, I agreed readily.

There are so many fantastic charitable and community projects out there.  For me, C3SC was a good fit – I knew the organisation, liked and respected the Chief Executive Officer Sheila Hendrickson-Brown, and felt that becoming a trustee could allow me to help an organisation that in turn empowers and represents Cardiff’s thriving and diverse voluntary and community sector.  

Although most of my professional background has been in the public sector, this has not been a drawback – in fact it has been a boon in that I can help Sheila and team understand the mindset of a local authority, and how to promote cross sector partnership.

I work with a stimulating and varied board of 10 trustees, and as well as making sure the organisation has clear aims, is financially sound, well led and delivers on its plans, we have opportunities to get involved if we want in the more operational side of the job, which can be very rewarding.

The third sector has so much to offer – close to its stakeholder base, lean and competitive, enterprising and full of integrity. Long may it continue!

Some trustees may have a particular skill (e.g. finance, communications, IT, HR or other) which can be easily employed to support a small organisation.  But life experience and common sense itself are assets, as is a willingness to contribute time and support.  There is plenty of training (C3SC itself delivers trustee training and co-ordinates a Trustee Network), and organisations like WCVA and the Charity Commission produce extensive and helpful guides.

If you have any thoughts about supporting a local organisation, why not talk to a friend who is a trustee and find out their experience?  If you’d like any further advice, you might find that your local County Voluntary Council (there is one for each local authority area in Wales, and Cardiff’s is http://www.c3sc.org.uk) or a body like Business in the Community or Governors Wales.

I get a lot from being a trustee – I’m sure you could too”

 

For more on becoming a Trustee or to find opportunities in Cardiff, contact or tweet @C3SC

 

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Why you should take on a Trustee role and how you can make it happen

This week, 12 – 16th November 2018, is Trustees Week where we celebrate the efforts of hundreds of thousands of volunteers who give up their time to ensure robust leadership and governance for charities across the UK.  This is also an opportunity to encourage and inspire others to get involved at this level.

What is a Trustee?

Trustees are responsible for a charity and work together to ensure financial sustainability, legal compliance and provide strategic direction. These people are often volunteers and make up a ‘Board of Trustees’ or ‘management committee’ which becomes the body for decision making in an organisation. Trustees should bring their own individual knowledge and opinions but support any decisions made as a collective.

Charities are always looking for skilled people to join their Trustee board so there are lots of opportunities to volunteer at this level.  Figures shared as part of trustees week suggest that there are roughly 196,000 charities across the UK with over a million Trustees in total.

Why do people become Trustees?

Probably the main reason for becoming a Trustee is the desire to make a difference and support a cause.  It is personally rewarding to contribute in this way and can have a significant positive impact on the wellbeing of those who volunteer and of course the beneficiaries of the organisation delivering the work. Not only that but as Reach Volunteering highlight, becoming a Trustee can be good for your career as well as your health’, supporting individuals to gain strategic experience, strengthen professional networks, learn new skills and more.

Speaking to a number of experienced trustees, it is clear that the role is challenging but rewarding at the same time…

“I was passionate about the charity sector benefiting from robust leadership, governance and strategic planning. Few voluntary sector organisations have access to trusted and impartial critical friends or expertise in particular professions so their board is a good opportunity to source those expertise. For me, it was also an opportunity to gain insight into how another voluntary organisation operates in a very different area of policy & practice so I learned a huge amount too. I strengthened my professional network and I got to volunteer my time skills and energy in the process. It made me a more rounded strategic operator and it wasn’t without its challenges so I feel it was time well spent” Nina Prosser, Trustee, Touch Trust (2015 – 2017)

“I became a trustee to make a difference for a charity I cared about.  As the honorary treasurer, I was able to use my financial knowledge to help the charity resolve some of its long term financial risks. On a personal level, I learnt a lot outside of my specialism and this helped me develop on a personal and professional basis”Alex Mannings, Honorary Treasurer, Ramblers GB (2015 – 2018)

In Wales, Empower offers a matching service, working with charities to identify what skills they need and then approaching high calibre individuals to fill these positions. Director, Bev Garside, said:

“Trustee recruitment is one of the most enjoyable parts of our role here at Empower because it provides an opportunity for real win-win partnerships.  For potential trustees, it provides an opportunity to utilise existing skills and develop new ones through a strategic non-executive directorship role within the charity sector.  For charities, there is the opportunity to benefit from highly skilled individuals bringing their specialisms and their passion to the board”.

“Trusteeship is an ideal proving ground for those wishing to move into a paid leadership position and companies benefit encouraging senior managers to seek appointments to charity boards”.

If you are interested in becoming a Trustee with an organisation in Wales, contact: bev@empowersvs.co.uk  

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[Photo: Pixabay]

How elected representatives can make good decisions and keep everyone happy

In February this year, Wales Online reported that there were calls for Bridgend MP, Madeleine Moon, to resign after she went against the electorate’s wishes and voted against the triggering of article 50 in a constituency that voted to leave the European Union.

It chimed with something I’ve been thinking about recently around the responsibility and accountability of those elected to a role.

As a Trustee of a membership organisation, I was elected to the Board by a body of representative members.  According to the ‘governance jigsaw’ published by the Charity Commission, the main duties of a Trustee include acting in the charity’s best interests, ensuring the charity is carrying out its purposes for public benefit and managing resources responsibly.  It seemed that some of my colleagues found themselves conflicted in fulfilling these duties as they struggled to make decisions that they thought might go against what they considered to be the wishes of the organisation’s members.

This conflict was particularly evident when we tried to take forward recommendations arising from a review of governance procedures.  It was as controversial and divisive as the Brexit vote as we sought to take forward reforms that had been developed by a panel of volunteers through consultation with the membership. 

The aim of the governance review was to modernise and encourage more members to become involved in the decision making process.  Changes proposed were designed to make it easier for committees to operate, streamlining their structure and allowing flexibility of roles.  Included in this, was an overhaul of committee roles in an attempt to make them more attractive for the next generation.  It was also hoped that the raft of changes put forward would ensure greater consistency across the organisation in how volunteer committees deliver the organisation’s charitable objectives. 

When I saw a television interview recently with the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, I noticed that when he was asked about his own decision making process, he said ‘in the end, all you can do is be true to your own values’.

Arguably, this is what Madeleine Moon was doing.  In her response to her critics, she said ‘fears over employment, workers right and trade deals were at the forefront of her mind’ and that she ‘tore herself apart’ coming to that decision.      

Moon appears to have taken the view that her role is to protect the long term interests of her constituency rather than represent their views. 

In my opinion, the electorate were given the chance to indicate what they wanted to happen in terms of our relationship with the EU.  As such, Moon should have voted to trigger article 50 because her constituency was clear in its desire.  Where her discretion comes in is in providing the necessary scrutiny to ensure proposals will deliver the best deal possible for her constituents.

In making a decision as a Trustee, the same judgement call needs to be made to ensure the members are represented and protected whilst you do your job as a leader of the organisation, setting the direction and supporting the charity to deliver its mission in the best possible way whilst securing the future of the organisation. 

Issues occur when members are against a decision that you as a Trustee believes is the best thing for the charity.  In this instance, Trustee’s must demonstrate their leadership skills and look to persuade members, bringing them along on the journey.

 

Have thoughts on this article? Been in a similar situation yourself? Share your views in the comments below.

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Governance principles are recipe for success

Over the last few years, I have become particularly interested in the way that charities ensure effective governance. Most of us are familiar with the disaster surrounding kids company and the blatant mis-spending of public funds. If you are based outside of Wales, you may be less familiar with AWEMA who had similar issues and Trustees were criticised for not having the right safeguards in place. These cases have helped to place a spotlight on the charitable sector and made it even more important that robust governance procedures are in place.

For those readers who are totally new to the concept of governance in this context, the term is defined by the Charity leader’s network ACEVO as ‘systems and processes concerned with ensuring the overall direction, effectiveness, supervision and accountability of an organisation’.

Achieving ‘good governance’ requires the appropriate systems to be in place and the right people to be around the table. The current governance code sets out 6 key principles which focus on individual performance, suggesting that a Board room of individuals that can contribute fully according to these principles is what is needed for success.

Here are the 6 principles explained:

1) Understanding your role – the first requirement is that Trustees know what role they play in the process, what is expected of them and how they can make a full contribution.

2) Ensuring delivery of your organisational purpose – a charity Trustee must ensure funds are used to deliver the mission and that the very greatest value is achieved for every pound.

3) Work effectively as an individual and as a team – diversity has been talked about a lot in the ‘good governance’ debate and it’s not just about diversity of backgrounds but also a mixture of different viewpoints. To be effective, Trustees must be able to contribute their view as an individual but also respect the views of others and be able to support the overall decision.

4) Exercising effective control – it takes particular skill to exercise control without being controlling. The word ‘control’ gives an instant feeling of hierarchy which is not the aim here. What it means in this context is to ensure risk is managed effectively, financial controls are in place and the right questions are asked which hold those with responsibility to account.

5) Behaving with integrity – being honest and acting in a way that is guided by strong moral principles. As a charity Trustee, its likely that a strong sense of values is present and as such, decisions should be guided by a belief in what is right and proper.

6) Being open & accountable – this means to be clear about the decisions that have been taken and the reason for the board’s position. Being accountable might also require you to stand by your decision when challenged because you believe it is in the best interests of the organisation.

Building on this good practice, a new code of governance is out for consultation. The revised code reflects concerns about governance and responds to aspirations across the charitable sector to improve it. As a result of such high profile cases of mis-management, the new code places more emphasis on leadership, values, accountability, transparency and diversity. Its aim is for charity boards to maintain a strategic focus, ensure Board development and pursue charitable objectives.

To read the new code and respond to the consultation, click here


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