1.1 Why People Become Trustees
Trustees come in all shapes and sizes – they can be people in their late teens to mature citizens; managing directors of major corporations or people who are unemployed and on benefits who want to help within their local community; they can be top university academics or people who left school at the age of 15 with no qualifications.
They can indeed be almost anyone and where they come from is not usually important, providing that their experiences, their skills, their energy and their common sense can prove useful to the organisations for whom they are trustees.
There are many different reasons why people become trustees
- Many people are attracted to a charity because of the ‘cause’ it supports like raising money for children, a local photography club, wildlife or poverty in Africa – and they want to contribute more of themselves than just money. They feel they have a commitment to the objectives of the charity.
- People may have a personal interest in a charity. Perhaps they used to be a user of the services or a relative of a service user. Or perhaps their partner may have suffered from a particular medical condition and have been helped by the charity. They have got to know the charity well and wish to give their time to helping others.
- Linked to the above, some people may become trustees as part of what might be termed a “life cycle” charity, such as a playgroup or a friends of a school charity because their children belong to the playgroup or school. This can present particular challenges with a high turnover of trustees; as their child moves on so usually does the parent.
- People can become trustees as a way of increasing confidence and developing managerial skills.
- Under-represented and / or disadvantaged groups often still face certain barriers in contributing their skills and energies in a public arena. This can make board membership of great significance to them.
- For retired people trusteeship is an opportunity for continued involvement in decision making and use of their professional skills.
- For people out of work becoming a trustee can be an opportunity to develop work skills and experience in the public arena.
- Individuals are sometimes recruited to boards where their particular skills will enable them to act as “trouble shooters” or “experts”.
- Particularly in smaller charities, some people join to fulfil a social need and to make / be with friends.
- Some people join because they are flattered to have been asked! When assessing motivation and contribution, remember that individual trustee’s skills and perspectives will ‘add value’ to your Board’s work. It is important therefore to understand the motivation of each trustee to prevent a high turnover of personnel.
|Case Study 1: Understanding the Motivation
A retired high-powered business man moved to a quiet rural village and almost immediately found himself chairing the local village fete committee. As a no-nonsense chair used to leading high-performance business teams, he was dismayed to discover that his fellow trustees seemed more interested in the tea and cakes and “having a good natter” than discussing the business of the meeting. Often items would move off at a tangent and cover everything from past history to local gossip, moans about the local post office closing to births, marriages and deaths in the village.
The business of the meeting was done, but in a roundabout way. He soon realised that the other committee members saw meetings as primarily social occasions with a “bit of business” mixed in. After a while he was able to negotiate a half hour social time before the meeting, a focussed hour on the meeting’s business followed by more social time at the end.
Subsequent meetings were therefore more productive – committee members had the chance to socialise before and after the business part of the meeting. They became better at focusing their attention on the business in hand.
|Trustee Discussion Point
Discuss with your trustees what motivated them to become a trustee of your group.