Tuesday, 6 August 2013

My View: by Jack Rowley, Public Affairs Manager, Charity Commission

Jack Rowley is Public Affairs Manager at the Charity Commission and a former trustee. Prior to his current position, he was Public Affairs and Campaigns Executive at The Scout Association.

For two years I was a trustee and vice chair of the British Youth Council and I’ve got news - being a trustee is hard, really hard. Whether it’s analysing monthly accounts, setting long term strategies or representing the charity externally, you have to do it all. But the challenge is rewarding.
As vice chair (campaigns and communications) I led on a range of projects including chairing our search group process to recruit new trustees and leading our higher education campaigning which included sitting on the advisory board for the Browne Review into Higher Education Funding and Student Finance. I also had the fantastic opportunity of co-chairing the launch event for the Government’s new Positive for Youth Strategy in 2010 alongside the Minister for Children and Young People.
Each board meeting was an opportunity to learn from my fellow board members and develop new skills, whether that was people management, strategic planning or budgeting and financial planning. Being a trustee develops you personally and professionally, helping in interviews and job applications alike.  I couldn’t recommend it more highly.
When I stepped down from the Board at the grand old age of 26, the weight off my shoulders was liberating at first. I had my weekends back, I worried less and I no longer had to work with our Chair – that’s a joke (sorry Liam). I do miss it though and would love to be a trustee again. However, stepping away from trusteeship for a few years got me thinking…
The sector has made great strides in recent years when talking about the need for trustees and, in particular, young trustees. I have always been, and continue to be, extremely supportive. But it seems to me there is still a gap between saying ‘we need trustees’ and ‘being a trustee is great’, as I have done, and making good quality opportunities visible and available to all. We have people who have been either student officers, Scouts, Guides, members of other youth organisations, charity beneficiaries and everything in between. We also have those who have less experience and have come to the sector later than others and those who have never thought of trusteeship at all. The uniting thread is that they could potentially all make great trustees but, in many cases, simply don’t always see the opportunities or consider why trusteeship might be for them. How do we bring the two together?
Let’s not just talk about the need for trustees but think about and put together plans to make sure we identify where those opportunities are and how we can communicate with the people we want to fill them. Let’s advertise them well, let’s get young people thinking about being trustees and, most importantly, let’s be open in our recruitment practices and spread the net as wide as possible. Easier said than done? Perhaps, but the talent and innovation is out there in the sector.
Trustees' Week is a great example of how this is beginning to be done. At the moment, there is no ‘one-stop shop’ for trustee vacancies. It would be brilliant to see this developed in the future, but currently help can be found in the shape of many of the Trustees’ Week partners, who advertise posts. Check out the Trustees’ Week website for details. The site is both a great starting point for potential trustees, and a useful resource for existing ones, containing resources, articles and information, as well as an up to date calendar of events, networking sessions and seminars. Get involved in the Trustees’ Week campaign and let’s work together to get people into trustee positions that they’ll flourish in.


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