Thursday, 29 September 2011

Alex Swallow's blog on being a young tustee

See Civil Society for a really interesting blog from Alex Swallow, on being a young trustee. Read it here in full:

Promoting the idea of younger trustees

Alex Swallow is one of that rare breed – a young trustee. He is determined to spread the word and encourage more young people to get involved.
When I was asked to be a trustee it was a total shock. I was passionate about the charity I volunteered for and perhaps if I had thought about it I could have seen that I had a few skills for the role. But I just didn't expect people of my age (in my 20s) to be able to be trustees. I presumed it was a role for much more experienced people. This is a perception that is shared by many. You can read a bit about my own experience as a trustee
here. I attended a trustee conference where out of hundreds of delegates there were only a few younger people and it made me think that this was an issue worth looking into.Last year the Charity Commission published a report called A Breath of Fresh Air, which looked at this issue It found that 18 to 24-year-olds make up just 0.5 per cent of charity trustees in this country. Another shocking statistic was that for the charities that do have trustees in this age group, 80 per cent of them only have one. This can possibly lead to the younger people feeling isolated and patronised.The report also looked at a number of possible solutions for how to get young people interested. One observation was that, as in my own case, general volunteering for an organisation is a good route into trusteeship and that hearing from other young people about trusteeship might be a good introduction. The positive thing is that many of the younger people they spoke to who were already trustees felt that they gained a lot from the role. They felt that they were making a positive contribution and that they were building up skills and experience for their own careers.I decided to take matters into my own hands a little and set up a group called 'Young Charity Trustees' on the professional networking site, LinkedIn. I invited young trustees, potential young trustees and anyone with advice for young trustees, to join, and we now have close to 200 members. To promote the group I have been in contact with a large number of youth organisations, charities and volunteering support groups. I have found that some excellent work is already being done to support young trustees, but that this doesn't get the publicity it deserves. I have two main hopes for the group. The first is simply that if we change the perception of even one younger person about trusteeship, then at least we have helped a little. The second is that the lessons we learn and the issues we raise might inspire some organisations with real clout to do something about this issue.Please spread the word about the group and join if you can, we need all the help we can get. And charities, please feel free to let us know about any trustee opportunities which may be coming up in your organisation.
Alex Swallow is co-vice chair and company secretary at Centre404

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