December marks the end of my six-year tenure as Trustee of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO). I’ve been reflecting on my regular journeys to Edinburgh and all the different experiences being a volunteer Trustee has brought, and what strikes me is the amazing kindness, respect and integrity that lives in every nook and cranny of Scotland’s voluntary sector.

Trustees of SCVO are a mixed group; some nominated and voted from the membership organisations, and some for their specific skills. As a ‘member’ Trustee, voted in by my fellow members, to say I had ‘imposter syndrome’ was a total understatement. My knees were positively knocking going along to the first meeting in Edinburgh as someone coming from a small-ish charity in Dumfries with few staff and below par reserve; I wasn’t sure I was up to the task. Despite the knocking knees, I took my place on the Board determined to bring the voice of our sector to the fore. But with approx. 40,000 voluntary organisations in Scotland and around 1.4m volunteers, can you really be their voice? I decided it was an impossible way to approach it, so instead I focussed on what our sector does, asking myself at every decision point – “does this fit with what voluntary organisations stand for”.

Drilling down what over 40,000 orgs stand for may sound unfathomable, but I kept coming back to three principles; kindness, respect and integrity. Every contact I had with SCVO saw me learning more about the voluntary sector in Scotland; from tiny rural village groups, to big national and global bodies, those 3 principals seemed to be the main ingredients in our thriving and vibrant sector. Whether their theme was sport, animals, environment, health, poverty, housing or culture, everyone seemed to be pulling in the direction that provided a better life and world for others.

After six years, I’m still no expert, but was I up to the task? When it came to stand up for the sector, I found myself made of very tough stuff and a strong advocate. Living, breathing and working in a voluntary organisation gave me insights, empathy, experience and knowledge that were a valued contribution to how SCVO progressed over my time. Anyone working in the voluntary sector in Scotland is more than up to the task of being a Trustee and should give it a go.

Finally, thank you.  Thank you to all the brilliant, kind and helpful Trustees I served alongside.  Thank you to the fantastic SCVO staff who helped with anything and everything I asked about.  Thank you to the members of SCVO who put their faith in me to bring their voice to the fore.  It was an honour and a privilege to serve.  Our sector is amazing in so many ways, so let’s all keep on being kind, respectful and working with integrity.

Michelle Carruthers MBE

Food Train CEO and SCVO Trustee 2013 to 2019