On Thursday 27th April, Frazer Jones were delighted to host the first Team Up HR Volunteer Network Breakfast. Our wonderful panel of experts provided some great insight into their experiences and useful information on becoming a trustee. Our special guests included;
Jin Chin Chair Central London Samaritans and HRBP at BNP Paribas
Graham Hodgkin of Wavelength & former CEO of London’s Air Ambulance & MD of Deutsche Bank
Carla Cornwell @The Katie Piper Foundation.
What does it mean to be a Trustee? Could you provide us with a run through typical Trustee responsibilities
- Legal guardians of the Charity supporting their best interests to further their objectives
- The role as Trustee is varied from the actual volunteer based work to a strategic approach and ultimately making the charity successful
- Being part of a team with aligning values not only to yourself but to the board of Trustees is essential
- As a Trustee it is important to be an equal voice and to not underestimate the weight of the role. All meetings must be well documented, collective group choice with clear decision making therefore it is important to offer a balanced viewpoint
Taking on a Trustee role may be a big decision, how can you tell if a charity or the existing board is the right fit?
- Becoming a Trustee is wide ranging role that you cannot take lightly
- You must choose a cause that has meaning to you and that you’re passionate about and therefore you expect the existing board to be on the same level
- Research the charity and see if you are happy with their cores and values. Check the annual report, charity commission and their approach to diversity. Is the charity having an impact?
- Look at yourself and ask ‘what can I offer them? How can I contribute?’
- Then it’s important to check what they are asking you to do? Does this fit with your skill base? Would you compliment the current board?
Carla you have recently joined a new board at Breadwinners Charity, why do you think they approached you and what do you feel you bring to the charity?
- Becoming a trustee was a choice I made after my career as a fundraiser. It is important that you feel you have a skill set or experience to contribute to the board. On this occasion my experience with the Katie Piper foundation supported this
- I choose a small charity that I could make a big change in – However charity size is irrelevant don’t feel that should you look at a small charity that it may not be for you. Small charities can have big impact
- My personality and background skill set – Bringing your professional skills to the table is important. From supporting the charities 3 year plan, targets and establishing relationships with key beneficiaries
- My network – Never underestimate the power of your network – use it and value it as it is a great platform for a charity in its early stages to when it’s established
- HR professionals are a brilliant and obvious connecting skill set for a charity
Governance – why is it so important? We hear a lot about good governance, for you what does this look like?
- You need the right people with the right oversight
- Right oversight includes – clear reporting systems and risk management
- Risk register is addressed every trustee meeting and is an essential part of the role. This will highlight and allow you to watch for any risks that may have an impact on the charity
- Right people includes- Group thinking, a varied panel with different characteristics and voices. This allows for an unbiased and mixed view point on the team
- Ability to work as a team is key – the role as a Trustee is very important when it comes to protecting and directing a charity and each Trustee or board member does not need to think the same but must be able to reach a conclusion that supports the charity goal
When we are considering a potential Trustee role, how can we tell if a charity is governed well? What kind of questions should we be asking?
- You must trust the network of people involved in the charity
- The relationship between the CEO – Chair – Trustee is very important
- There must be a good level of diversity on the board and inviting new Trustee’s in with varied experience is very important
- Do they have on the board someone with finance background, Business development, HR, a beneficiary? All areas that create a strong board
- A functional, dynamic and strategic board is important this means a board that covers all key elements a charity need
- Size is subjective and not important when making the choice you need professionalism, vision, good leadership and impact
- Have they ran a skills based audit of their current board, do your skills fit any gaps identified
- The charity sector is a sector in need of HR support!
So what is the process? How much time are you expected to commit to your role as a trustee, what is a good level of commitment?
- Allow the time for 4-6 meetings annually and preparation time beforehand
- Working for a smaller start up charity I am always thinking about the charity and what I can bring to our meetings and its growth
- I think carefully about how can I support the charity and what do I want to achieve. What level of commitment can I offer? Will this fit with my full time job commitments
- It is important to discuss the level of commitment you can offer and give yourself a timescale
What do you think makes a great board from a CEO’s prospective, what are the crucial characteristics/behaviours/experience needed to do the job well?
- The stakeholder group must be diverse to cover the many elements that consist in a charity. Including the governance role and the financial element. There are many regulators so it’s key that there is a mixed level of experience to accommodate this
- A ‘Critical friend’ is also a good role to have within the board. Offering a positive challenge to the course of action and support the desiccation making process
- Being part of the board can sometimes feel detached from the actual role of the charity and what it supports so a mentor/coaching approach would be useful for all members
- A great board will also engage in the fundraiser piece and be an ambassador at all times. Even within your day job and it is important that all board members are the same
- If you are part of a board it is important to not just turn up to the meetings but turn up fully engaged mentally and physically
- You must be emotionally engaged in the role. Having a diverse board with varying characteristics is key. Coming from a HR prospective you can offer best practise advice and learning and development
- From a CEO prospective you can keep one step away from the day to day element of the charity to offer a strategic and independent viewpoint and it is important there is someone on a board that can do this
Is there a typical process to go through when you appoint a Trustee, do you have and an interview and is it similar to securing a paid role?
- It is a similar approach with regards to having the skill set to be able to do the job of a trustee. Can they or you actually do the job? Do you have the characteristic or experience to offer the service required?
- A good trustee will have a clear line of sight and have the ability to persuade and encourage the many different characters that sit on the board
- When searching for a trustee you must adjust your expectations and look at cultural fit rather that then just the ‘like’ factor. Will they bring a different skill, personality, view point to the table? A mixed board essential
In terms of your individual experience, what do you think you will gain from being a Trustee on both a personable and professional level?
- I wanted a role outside my day job that had impact on something that mattered. I initially volunteered for CLS before my involvement at a strategic level and it aligned with my personal values
- As a charity it saves lives, has meaning and broadened me as a person
- From a professional prospective it has developed my commercial acronym, given me full involvement in a business not just within HR but having a role across all organisational development
- It is entrepreneurial and that has always been a side of me that I wanted to evolve
- It has given me a sense of purpose and broader prospective on life
- The current troubling changes across the world means charities are becoming increasingly more important and I want to be involved in this support
- From working predominantly with the financial services I thought it paramount to be giving back in a valued way and using these connections to help the charities. Getting business leaders involved has also been my aim
- From a personal prospective I feel it has made me a more interesting person and allowed me to meet some amazing and inspiring people
- For me it gave me the opportunity to offer practical support and deliver everyday services.
- Connected with the people and spend time with the beneficiaries to get an understanding of what is needed. This helped me feel connected to the charity even more
- I could see where the Trustees were losing scope and potential decisions that would have had a negative impact and I wanted to help
- It was rewarding to see a small charity stay and grow
How do you think you would have utilized some of the HR talent we have in the room today on your board when you first joined London’s Air ambulance?
- I was lucky enough to have Jin’s support (Jin being HRBP at BNP Paribas) when I arrived at London Air Ambulance there was no structure in place and Jin brought key elements to make a positive impact
- These included – talent acquisition, Appraisal, performance overviews and support to the values of the charity
- HR professionals are needed in the Trustee team and board they can bring a critical piece as well as people policy to the table
- HR professionals can offer advice to the charity, are we following correct procedures and support leaders and employees with L&D
- HR helps the process of people – they are increasingly important and as a trustee will have real impact
If any of us are thinking that right now maybe the Trustee route may not be for us right now what can we do?
- Supporting as a volunteer first for the charity that best matches your values
- Look at what you can do to offer that charity? Can you see if they have a need for your support?
The Trustees at The Katie Piper Foundation needed L&D support and so it was and is important to them that they have a trustee with that skill set and from my prospective 80% of charity trustees need this L&D support. Could this be an area to offer support as a HR professional?
- Speak with the board see if you can ascertain what they need? Offer pro-bono support
- HR can see a team and know what’s missing – this will be valuable to a Trustee board. Educating the board on policy and management of volunteers also in an effective way
Q & A
Questions which were put to panel included:
I am a nurse by training and want to work with a charity that is in line with my values. However I work in a pharmaceutical company would it be a problem if my job conflicts with my charity?
Not always can it be a conflict of interest, sometimes it’s useful to have a point of view from a different prospective. As long as you are transparent with your current employment upon the recruitment process it’s unlikely to be a problem. You have to declare your job at the start but as long as you are wearing your charity hat when you’re a trustee and your work hat when at your place of employment then it would be fine.
I have approached charities before and applied for volunteer work and have been told they are not recruiting? Why does this happen?
Charities can be overwhelmed with offers of support and can be worried about the level of experience on offer. Don’t be disheartened some charities may seem like they are completely organised but often they have a lot going on behind the scenes. Continue to apply or via this programme ‘Team Up’ you will be offered the opportunity to do pro-bono work as a way of helping. Jo’s whole initiative with ‘Team Up’ is what will hopefully bridge that gap for those of you just tipping your toe in the water with regards to supporting a charity. Doing pro bono work will allow you to offer your skills and help which will hopefully evolve to becoming a Trustee.