People often talk about trusteeship as an opportunity to give back, but the truth is that it’s one of the most rewarding roles anyone could take on.
While I relish the support I can give to charities in my day job running a telephone fundraising agency, my role as trustee of the international development charity Kicking Off brings a very different perspective, and the opportunity to have a truly hands on involvement with the charity’s fantastic work. It’s an endeavour I’d recommend, and I agree with the calls going out across the
charity sector this week to do more to encourage younger people to get involved.
For this Trustees Week, I want to share six of the many ways that being a trustee really gives back:
1. Gain a fresh perspective
Whether you’re reading this as a charity employee, volunteer, consultant or you are agency side, taking on a trustee role can bring invaluable insight into the challenges faced and decisions made. Overseeing a charity at governance level gives you a birds-eye view, broadening your knowledge and understanding of all the areas involved in running a successful charity.
This is a great opportunity not only to contribute to a cause you really care about, but to develop knowledge of the underlying issues and what is being done to achieve change.
2. Develop leadership skills
With responsibility for ensuring that a charity is run as it should be, trusteeship is a great opportunity to develop leadership skills and confidence in decision-making.
If you’ve not had a senior leadership role before then the experience can be invaluable. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, but it’s a great opportunity for people young and old to step up, support with ideas and help shape the organisation’s future. Working with smaller charities might mean contributing to the direction of all aspects of the organisation, from fundraising to finance, compliance to beneficiary services. But with larger charities, there is often scope to specialise in issues that align with your own interests or skills; those areas where you can really add value to the organisation.
3. Open up new career opportunities
Being a trustee is a huge positive when applying for further roles within the sector or beyond.
Not only does it help develop new skills, confidence in the board room and a deeper understanding of how organisations are run, but it shows a willingness to go the extra mile for a good cause. This can open new doors from a career perspective and is almost certainly seen as a positive attribute by recruiters and potential employers.
4. New experiences, new you
Every year, I travel to Ghana to visit Kicking Off’s aid programmes in action, immersing myself in the charity’s work and talking with beneficiaries. As a trustee, it gives me a different perspective on the underlying issues we are tackling, the overarching direction the charity is taking and how it can best achieve impact. It never fails to leave me musing on how busy we are over here and the stresses we put upon ourselves, despite living in such an affluent nation.
Spending time amongst people who literally have nothing but yet smile so easily can’t help but bring a healthy perspective on life and makes you realise just how lucky you really are.
5. Doing good feels good
Helping others promotes positive psychological changes in the brain; in other words, it makes you happier. So, whilst you might worry that volunteering as a trustee will means more work on top of an already busy schedule, this type of work and renewed focus can improve your confidence, optimism and wellbeing, reducing your stress level.
What’s more, the feeling is contagious! I know I can’t help but share my positive experiences with friends, colleagues and family, and this in itself encourages others to become involved in one way or another with good causes or by contributing to a more positive community generally.
6. Becoming part of a new community
Trustees come from all walks of life, but all are likely to have a common interest in the cause. As a sector, we need to ensure every effort is made to actively seek out younger people and those from minority or disadvantaged groups, so that the board becomes as diverse – or more so – as the communities we serve.
The trustee board in itself is just that – a community, a network of people with shared interests and a willingness to contribute positively to the world around them.
If you’re thinking about applying for a trustee role this Trustee Week, don’t be afraid to go for it. Certainly, if my experience is anything to go by, you really won’t regret it.
Helen Mackenzie is Founder and CEO of Purity Fundraising, a telephone fundraising agency that specialises in real conversations for a positive supporter experience.