I have spoken to a number of people interested in becoming a charity trustee. There are two common questions:
- What exactly is a trustee?
- Have I really got the experience to contribute?
I won’t dwell on the first question too much, as other blogs cover it – as does extensive information online (I would recommend ‘The Essential Trustee’.
However, the second question is probably a simpler answer than most people expect.
When people think of boards, they often think of highly qualified professionals in formal attire sitting around a table and talking about complex issues. Professionals who ‘know their stuff’. This means a lot of people – regardless of age – are nervous about what they would bring to a board of trustees. The truth is that these fears are missing the point.
The most effective charity boards I have seen have trustees who are inquisitive. Trustees who ask questions and ask for clarity. These questions are crucial to picking up on things that might otherwise have been missed, or to thinking of new ways of working – and it absolutely does not need to be heavily experienced individuals asking the questions. Indeed, the most effective boards I have seen are genuinely diverse. Diverse in terms of level of experience, background, interests, you name it. What is important is that Trustees can offer different perspectives.
So, what do you need to be an effective trustee? I would say:
- A willingness to speak up – the ability to ask questions and challenge the status quo
- A curiosity in the charity and its strategy
- A real desire to make a difference to the charity and its beneficiaries
Despite how it may be coming across, I am not saying that boards don’t need expertise. They definitely do. Indeed, varied experience across the board is crucial to effective governance. However, what I am saying is that to become a trustee, you don’t need to know it all. At the age of 24, I myself can absolutely not pretend to know even close to ‘it all’. As the title says, if you have the desire to make a difference, you’re almost certainly more qualified to be a trustee than you might think.
Being a trustee is a responsible role. It can at times be challenging, and issues you may not have seen before will often come up. But if you’re passionate and interested – and most importantly willing to speak up and contribute – you can be in no doubt that you will be an asset to the board. The British Youth Council has the most welcoming and supportive board you could ask for, so don’t shy away from applying if you’re interested in becoming a trustee.
We are currently looking for people with experience in people, change management, finance and risk for our ongoing appointment round. As is the theme throughout this blog, this experience can come in different shapes and sizes. You may have gained experience through volunteering, or through school or university. You may have a part-time or full-time job that deals with related issues. If this sounds like you, we would be keen to hear from you and hear a bit more about what you might have to offer as well as why you might want to support the British Youth Council.
If you would like to join our Board of Trustees, find out more. And if you’re still having doubts, why not reach out to a trustee for a chat?