1-7 June is Volunteers’ Week – a chance to celebrate and say thank you for the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK.
It’s also an opportunity to promote the diversity, value and power of volunteering in all its forms – from front line operational work with service users, to micro or virtual volunteering, to being a trustee on a board.
When you ask people about volunteering, they perhaps don’t immediately think of the role of a trustee. They can maybe name their local Scout leader, or football coach, or someone in their local charity shop, but perhaps don’t think of trustees as volunteers.
But the behind the scenes work a trustee does is vital to the success of any organisation. They are the people who have ultimate responsibility in law and make a huge difference at a strategic level in voluntary organisations and charities across the country. There are more than 250,000 trustees in Scotland, all doing vital work, setting the strategy and vision for their organisation, safeguarding assets and making financial decisions, and ensuring the organisation sticks to its purposes and meets the needs of its beneficiaries.
Anyone can volunteer as a trustee, you don’t have to have to have years of corporate experience or a financial or legal background. It’s just as important to have lived experience or a passion to help an organisation or cause succeed. Your perspective and experiences can bring valuable insights to a board and ensure diversity of thought and good decision making. To be an effective trustee it’s important that you can work with other people in a team, make collective decisions, and offer constructive opinions and leadership.
Volunteering as a trustee is a great way to boost your CV and make you more employable. It also offers great networking opportunities and the chance to develop your leadership skills. Being on a board can offer the possibility of gaining experience that you might not get in your day job, such as budgeting and financial planning, staff recruitment, project management, managing risk and developing strategy.
To be a trustee you need to commit to regularly attending board meetings, which might be up to 6-8 times a year. You also need to make the time to read all the papers and prepare for meetings, and may need to serve on a sub-committee looking at specific areas such as finance or HR. Don’t underestimate the work involved. But it’s really rewarding, and if all of this seems daunting, then you can start by approaching organisations and seeing what you can do to support them in other ways. Or you could start off with a small organisation, such as your local Brownie Pack, Parent Teacher Council or After School Club. Have a look at Goodmoves or Volunteer Scotland for more ideas.
Research shows that volunteering is good for your health, so have a think about how you can give some time to a cause you believe in, and don’t forget to think about becoming a trustee! We’ve even got our own celebration week in November.