Scott Sullivan: how becoming a Trustee makes a difference to people’s lives 

Author Damien Barnett
October 12, 2022

In the HR world, we are seeing a huge rise in focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) – including a sharp increase in Professional Trustees sitting on non-profit boards. 

That’s why we are excited to launch the Frazer Jones Trustee Network: a community that connects non-profit businesses with Trustees across the UK. Find out more about this here

To celebrate the launch, we sat down with Scott Sullivan, HR Director at Bates Wells, to ask how his work as a Trustee makes a direct impact on the lives of young people.  

What is your background and how did it lead you to become a Trustee? 

I’m an experienced strategic HR professional and the HR Director at Bates Wells, a truly purpose-driven law firm and first in the UK to be a B Corporation.  

I’m also a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and sit as a Justice of the Peace in East London. My other interests involve foods that come with gravy, music that has clapping in it and winning at Monopoly. 

I am also a Trustee for Diversity Role Models (DRM), a charity that actively seeks to embed inclusion and empathy in the next generation by working with schools to make them more inclusive.  

Our vision is a world where everyone embraces diversity and can thrive. We use the power of storytelling through our role models to educate students, teachers, parents, carers and governors on respecting difference and breaking down stereotypes and prejudices. 

I got involved in DRM two years ago when they looked to add some HR expertise to their board. It’s been a wonderful experience and our reach is huge, making a real impact on the lives of young people. 

”Our vision is a world where everyone embraces diversity and can thrive.”

What does it mean to be a Trustee? 

The main role of a Trustee is to advance the purpose of the charity for which you are legally responsible. It’s a governance role that ensures the decision making of the charity is aligned to what it sets out to achieve for the ultimate beneficiaries.  

In our case, that is the promotion of equality and diversity for the public by:  

  1. Eliminating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in educational institutions 
  1. Advancing education and raising awareness in equality, diversity and inclusion 
  1. Promoting activities to foster understanding between people from diverse backgrounds 

It’s also about good business governance and making sure the charity is making good use of their assets (both physical, including property, and intangible, like reputation). A lot of the focus is on fundraising, plus spending the charities funds responsibly and sustainably. 

I don’t get involved in the day to day running of DRM; we have a brilliant staff team who do that – particularly our Chief Executive Officer Matt Garvey. We support the team in their decision making and provide that all important ‘critical friend’ role that challenges and ensures we are doing things effectively.  

Given my experience, I also give more advice and counsel on staff and engagement matters. 

We have a quarterly board meeting and I also host our employee forum. We all help promote the charity and the brand, making connections with our own networks to help drive objectives forward. 

There are loads of great resources out there to find out more; I like The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) myself. 

”It’s about good business governance, making sure the charity is making good use of their assets.”

Why did you want to become a Trustee? 

I feel passionate about equity and inclusion.  

As a person who grew up with no queer role models, the purpose of the charity just really spoke to me. We are genuinely making a difference for people’s lives. This type of volunteering is so rich in purpose and impact it just feels brilliant to be able to pay it forward for the next generation.  

I also get a lot out of it. This was the first board position I held and it has helped me develop enormously. It’s also great to gain experience in another sector and insight into how different things can be. 

”It feels brilliant to be able to pay it forward for the next generation.”

How do you balance your professional work commitments with your role as a Trustee? 

I am lucky that I’m at a certain stage in my career and at a firm which gives a lot of trust and autonomy. We generally meet at the end of the day so I am able to flex my work schedule. There are also some bits I do on a Sunday evening.  

You do have to be disciplined but the truth is that I find it relatively easy to juggle because I care so much about what we are trying to achieve. 

”You do have to be disciplined but I care so much about what we are trying to achieve. ”

What new skills have you learned from becoming a Trustee? 

Loads!  

Aside from the legal aspects, my financial acumen has really developed since I became a Trustee. Fundraising and spend has a totally different meaning in a small charity and it has really helped bring on my commerciality. I already mentioned the board experience which has definitely helped me in my working life. 

”Fundraising and spend has a different meaning in a small charity, it has really helped bring on my commerciality”

What has been most rewarding about your role as a Trustee? 

When we reached our 150,000th student I was filled with such pride. It was such a brilliant achievement and milestone. To feel connected to that was hugely rewarding. 

”When we reached our 150,000th student I was filled with such pride.”

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about becoming a Trustee? 

Just do it!  

I remember telling a friend who was a Trustee that I didn’t think I could bring anything to the board room. He told me to trust myself that I would absolutely be able to contribute having worked in different organisations and environments – and he was completely right. I have also found something that I feel passionate about. When you are making a contribution that you really care for, it makes the effort seem totally worthwhile. 

”When you are making a contribution that you really care for, it makes the effort seem totally worthwhile.”

Become part of the Frazer Jones UK Trustee Network 

If you are interested in a Trustee role or are looking to hire a Trustee position, please email damienbarnett@frazerjones.com to find out more.  

We want to reiterate that this is not a paid service and will be a referral programme, so please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

Read more about the network here

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