Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Angus Hannah, Trustee & Vice-Chair of the Voluntary Action Fund shares his Trusteeship success with us

Like all good stories, this one starts with a chance encounter. While in a tutorial in Napier University Dr Miles Weaver was filling in for the regular tutor who was off for some reason.

He mentioned his work on equalities in leadership, and the need for young people to take the initiative and start representing our peers, rather than accepting another generation representing us and mentioned Young Trustees in Scotland.

I listened to him politely and decided, half-heartedly, to see what was what. I went along to an information day, and listened to the ideas and although was interested in the idea, had other things on my mind – studying, partying, and applying for internships for my Year in Industry.

Fast-Forward 6 months and I was still struggling to find an internship – the whole class had gone through the soul-crushing, ego-deflating routine which is repeated rejections from companies – Thanks, but no thanks; I was recovering from a horrific 6-week bout of glandular fever in which I lost 2 stone; my girlfriend had decided enough was enough; and I still didn’t have a bloody internship!

Then another 6 months and it was October: I was happily working for EDF-Energy at Torness Power Station and was looking for ways to improve myself, while giving something back to society. Happily, I received an email from the university inviting students to apply to the Get-On-Board program, a 3-module evening class to give students a professional Corporate Governance accreditation, with a view to put more young people in positions of responsibility and governance within the voluntary sector.

I’ve always been one for widening my horizons, and taking the opportunities afforded to me – especially if I feel they will put me out of my comfort zone, and felt that learning about corporate governance during a time in which the public perceptions of corporations are of low moral standards would be particularly topical.

So without being particularly hopeful I applied to this Get-On-Board program, and somehow was accepted. This was an eye-opening opportunity, with Professor Karl Georges taking the classes in fun, exciting, and engaging ways while being seated in what One thought of as board-room style – all very exciting!

One of the benefits of being on the Get-On-Board program are the updates of trustee places available in the local area. One of these which piqued my interest was the Voluntary Action Fund, or VAF, which is a national charity which distributes grants on behalf of the Scottish Government in the areas of Equalities, Violence Against Women, Volunteering, and Anti-Sectarianism. But it is more than just money, it is a charity which advises their funding charities and helps them in more qualifiable ways.

The main attraction was that this charity aligns with my moral compass – the need for equality, my ability to battle for those who I feel are being unfairly treated, support for vulnerable people, and the need for public money to be used properly.

So off I went for the interview, which was with the chairman, CEO, and a trustee of the charity, and we mainly talked about the work which VAF does, while eyeing each other up to see if the charity would fit in with me, and vice versa.

Apparently it went well, as I was invited for another interview. This interview was more focussed on me, what my ambitions were, where I saw the charity going, what I felt about the charity, and whether I felt it was doing a good job.

Yet again, seemingly it all went well, because I was invited onto the board as a trustee. This was a great honour and privilege to be in a position to make decisions on the strategical direction of a national charity, decisions which, hopefully, will have a positive impact on Scottish society, and which will support charities which are doing essential work throughout the country.

As is my way, I felt that the only way to go about this was to jump head first and get as involved as possible, so was accepted as a member of the Property and Finance Committee, as well as the Business Development Committee. This gave me the opportunity to learn more about good, responsible governance as well as the work which the charity does.

After attending several board and committee meetings the post for vice chairman became available and was brought up during a board meeting. The question was – who should the next vice chairman be?

The thoughts going through my head were mainly along the lines of – What an opportunity to be in a leading position within a national charity which is a power of good in society, against the doubts which must creep into most peoples’ minds – Am I too Young? Do I have the Experience? Do I have the necessary knowledge? And the final one – Am I good enough?

Then a sudden, sharp thought came through – a trustee must show leadership, and first and foremost follow his fiduciary duty towards the charity, and that this was an opportunity not to be missed – so I gingerly put forward “I know that I am a young trustee, and that there are several member of the board with more experience than myself, but I would like to put my name forward as the Vice-Chairman”… and somehow I was voted through unanimously.

It’s been a tremendous privilege to get this opportunity and I owe a debt of gratitude towards all those who have shown interest in my position and encouraged me to back myself – from Miles Weaver and Karl Georges at the Get-on-Board Program, Napier University, and EDF-Energy for allowing me to take the time to go to my board meetings.

I am getting a huge amount of satisfaction from being a vice chairman, knowing I am representing a charity which is doing a huge amount of good work through out Scotland, and pushing the need for community capital in all modern societies.

Many young people feel they aren’t getting heard, that they can’t make a difference, and that their future is already decided. This story shows that is not the case, and with a little ambition, drive, and a lot of enthusiasm anything can happen.

So to any young people reading this – become a trustee of a charity you believe in, build your employability skills and your knowledge of corporate governance, but most of all help our charities be more representative of those they help, and make sure our voices can be heard.

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