Being a board member is one of the most important roles in a charity or social enterprise. Trustees or directors work on governing bodies and take ultimate responsibility for an organisation, ensuring that it is well-run and working towards its purpose – whether that is (for example) to decrease poverty, provide play opportunities for children or offer housing to people who are homeless.
Almost half of all UK charities are looking for board members at any one time, so people with the time and skills are in demand. What’s more, the job has never been so important – increasingly stringent charity legislation and ever-tightening budgets have made good management vital to the survival of Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector organisations.
Each person has their own individual reasons for becoming a trustee, however there is a full spectrum of benefits that make the position attractive.
Firstly, being a board member can be hugely rewarding. You’ll get the opportunity to make a lasting difference to a cause you care about and help define an organisation’s future by contributing your ideas and knowledge.
Secondly, there only a few restrictions on who can be a trustee or director and you don’t necessarily need to have any specialist skills or have board level experience in order to apply. You just need to be passionate about the charity you join and have an understanding of its role in society.
While being a good board member requires dedication and commitment, it should not take up a huge amount of time. Trustees usually meet 6–10 times per year and most meetings will be under two hours. Most trustee boards will have a fixed term of membership meaning that you don’t necessarily need to make a long-term commitment. As well as meetings, you would need to factor in a bit of time for reading documents, adhoc or extraordinary meetings and membership on any committee subgroups. The time commitment varies depending on the organisation.
From a professional point of view, being a trustee allows you to gain transferable skills, improve your CV and broaden your experience. You will definitely learn something in the role. Notably you’ll be in a leadership position and so will gain first-hand experience of managing risk, setting a strategic vision and negotiating. Collaboration, communication and the ability to constructively challenge the Manager or Chief Executive Officer are all important parts of being a board member. As such, it’s the perfect forum to hone your judgement and team-working skills.
People who already have board experience will be able to enjoy using their skills and experience in a different context. You’ll also meet interesting new people and develop your network of contacts and opportunities, making it the perfect way to expand your professional and personal network.
If you’re interested in becoming a trustee then you can visit and see what is available.