What is a trustee and how could you be a great one?
A trustee is part of the team that governs a charitable
- Set and maintain vision, mission and values
- Develop strategy
- Ensure accountability
- Ensure compliance with the law
An important issue for the board is that our trustees, on average, have about twenty hours of governance time over the course of the year based on
Given this, the average person considering trusteeship might justifiably be anxious and feel intimidated by taking on these responsibilities. In fact, most people, however professionally skilled, will be put off.
However, we already have a fantastic group of Trustees with experience so it is a perfect opportunity to build your own confidence and learn whilst still fulfilling a vital role. For me, as someone who is a chief executive, but has also been a trustee, these five things are the most important for trustees in their role:
- Be interested and curious about the charity’s work and its new developments. Read the papers beforehand so that you can make meaningful and informed contributions at the meetings.
- Make sure that the largest part of your meeting is about strategy, not operations. That’s why you have a chief executive/manager/staff. Your staff can give you an operational
report,but assume everyone’s read it and it’s for information only. Your CEO’s life is in the operational space, where they get to talk about ideas and strategy is with you.
- Be focused on your mission – this sounds vague but it means very specific things – are you expanding into areas that take resources away from your objectives? What are the risks? What are the benefits? Are you collaborating effectively to get the best possible service for your service users?
- Supporting your CEO to move forward –in situations where the
organisationfaces significant challenges like loss of funding, while it’s good to have a collective moan about it, the role of a good trustee board is to move the conversation on and think about what next? It’s not to allow you all to stay in a negative place. That’s not helpful. As trustees, the most useful thing you can do when things go wrong is, sure, but actually, work collectively to mitigate and move forward. sympathise
- Create the conditions that allow trust between you and the CEO – you’re a team, you should be working together on running the charity. In most circumstances, the CEO knows much more than you about the
charity,and has sound reasons for recommending the things they do. Your job as trustees is to test their assumptions, challenge their ideas, but in a helpful way.
I’ve been a charity trustee for different charities over the course of my
Rob Groves. CEO.