Tips for being a great trustee

Tips for being a great trustee

This week is Trustees Week (4-8th November), an annual event to showcase the great work that trustees do and highlight opportunities for people to get involved.

Sometimes called the board, management committee, or the directors, charity trustees share responsibility for governing a charity and directing how it is managed and run. Trustees are not employees and cannot receive any benefit from the charity so being a trustee usually comes out of a commitment to the charity’s cause or a sense of civic duty.  While being a trustee requires a great deal of responsibility, it is also incredibly rewarding.

Having worked with charities and trustees for almost 20 years now, we’ve put together a few tips on how to be a great trustee for your charity.

1. Ensure you get an induction

Getting a proper induction is vital. As a trustee, you need to be fully aware of your legal responsibilities and the issues affecting your charity.

Ask for a briefing from each of the senior management teams, to better understand where the organisation is and where it wants to go. Being visible to staff is also an important way to establish trust, particularly among the charity’s staff. 

2. Review your skills

As a trustee, it is important that you have the skills to contribute fully to a charity’s board. You don’t need to be an expert in every single element of running a charity – but trustees do need to ensure they have a good understanding of the organisation and what’s required of them.

It’s always helpful to reflect on where you might need support so that you can continue to improve and progress the aims of your organisation. As you advance through your board career, it’s useful to do regular self-appraisals to make sure that your training is up to date and identify where self-improvement can be made. It’s also a good idea to encourage the whole board to appraise itself annually too.

3. Get a mentor

One of the best steps you can take, is to find yourself a mentor. You may want to consider someone who is already on the board. Having a sympathetic ear to bounce ideas off is always useful. This doesn’t have to be a formal arrangement – grabbing a coffee from time to time will do. It’s also a great way to exchange ideas and build stronger working relationships with other members of the board.

If you are already a trustee, then offer to mentor someone else – it’s good to pass on what you’ve learnt.

Lastly, good luck and enjoy it! Being a trustee is an incredible opportunity to help shape the future of an organisation you care about. It’s also the chance to take on a personal project that will equip you with new skills and experience, strategic oversight into the running of an organisation, and a network of professional contacts.

If you’re looking for a role as a trustee, you can find a trustee vacancy through one of the links here on the Trustees Week website.