The latest statistics on volunteering from the UK Civil Society Almanac 2018 highlight that just over a third of people (37%) formally volunteered at least once a year and around a fifth (22%) formally volunteered at least once a month in 2016/17.
During Volunteers’ Week, Ian Joseph, Chief Executive at Trustees Unlimited and Managing Director of Russam GMS, is calling on more people to consider volunteering as a charity trustee as a way to not only give something back to society, but to enhance their career development.
He says, “Many professional people are volunteering as trustees and using their skills and experience to benefit a charity they have an interest in. Trusteeships are a great way for people to gain board-level experience, often much earlier than they would in their day job – which can really help them in their career.
“People can broaden their skills and knowledge, as well as gain confidence from contributing and participating at board level and expressing their opinion. They widen their networks by mixing with other trustees, donors and stakeholders, as well as develop stronger communication, teamwork and relationship building skills,” adds Mr Joseph.
Mr Joseph also stressed the need for more diversity on charity boards. A report at the end of last year by the National Council for Voluntary Organisation’s highlighted that diversity is one of the biggest challenges facing charities today.
Mr Joseph adds, “Charities increasingly want to improve diversity on their boards, as they recognise they need to better reflect the society we live in to be able to address the issues faced. It’s also about bringing in a mix of skills to improve decision making and charities are calling out for people from all backgrounds, ethnicity and age groups to get involved.
“Younger people especially can bring in vital skills such as digital and social media experience, which can be hugely valuable to charities looking to widen their appeal and update their communication methods,” adds Mr Joseph.
One way of becoming a trustee is to register with a specialist trustee recruitment company like Trustees Unlimited who match suitable candidates with opportunities that may be of interest. Another route into trusteeship is through a corporate programme such as ‘Step on Board’, a board-level trustee development programme launched by Trustees Unlimited and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in 2014.
Allison Watson, Head of EMEA Business & Operations Staffing at Google recently completed the Step on Board programme and has joined the board of Working Chance, a charity that recruits women leaving the criminal justice and care system.
Watson loves the fact she is using the skills she acquired at Google to help the charity improve its digital strategy. She has introduced Working Chance to the Google Foundation and the charity is currently submitting a proposal to Google to set up a digital hub to give women the skills they need to re-enter the workforce.
Watson says, “Being a charity trustee has given me a very different perspective and helped me think in a different way than I do in my day to day role. I’m finding the digital partnership with Google in particular interesting and challenging and it’s allowing me to stretch into areas I haven’t dealt with previously.
“The trusteeship has provided a great development opportunity for me and has helped me understand how the charity sector works and how we can set up successful partnerships between charities and corporates.
“I would definitely encourage others to become charity trustees. I think it’s important to go into it with your eyes open but it is such an interesting experience and will give you a different perspective on life and work – and more than that, it’s a good thing to do,” adds Watson.
Another executive that completed the programme is media lawyer Dina Shiloh, a partner at Gallant Maxwell. She is now a trustee at the Microloan Foundation, a charity that helps women in sub-Saharan Africa break the cycle of poverty by providing loans training and support to help them set up their own business.
Shiloh believes that trusteeship can support career advancement. She says, “I don’t know of any other way for people in their early 30s to gain board experience so early in their careers. It’s also very good for personal development.”