The people who become great Trustees are those who embrace the idea they can constantly develop and grow in the role, and who dedicate the time and energy to that growth.
The key words here are: Studious, and Focussed
Now is the time for you to start executing decisions from your earlier reflections. What are you going to focus on? What are you going to read? What is your personal plan for getting better and better at this whole Trustee thing?
This isn’t a one-way street. This time and effort isn’t just philanthropic self-sacrifice. We’ve created this video around the idea of what you give, and what you get as a Trustee:
The first thing to know is what an exciting and interesting opportunity Trusteeship is, however, there’s no avoiding it, you do need to understand where you stand. What’s the law, and how do you stick to it.
You will, by now, have a sense of your organisation’s broad goals. But how well do you know the environment they exist in?
If you’re to help make decisions, and support the executive to do the best they can for your mission, you need to have a sense of what you’re working with/against. What’s going to make the job harder or easier? What is the environment? And how do you grow your understanding of that environment?
A long-serving Trustee, the Chair, or Executive should be able to point you to some resources with the analysis pre-done for you, and/or walk you through it. If they can’t do that…well, perhaps you’ve identified your first project as Trustee?
We highly recommend this article on External Environment Analysis, from NCVO.
It is essential that you have a good understanding of this. You have so much to bring to your role as Trustee, but how can you possibly contribute your best if you don’t have a grasp of the eb and flow of your organisation’s world?
If you’ve read the article above but you and your organisation are still struggling with understanding your environment, try the following:
Raise this as an agenda item at your next meeting. Perhaps it’s something the executive could take forwards? Or…
Form a temporary sub-group with your colleagues, set yourselves the task and deadline for reporting back to the board with an environmental analysis. Or…
Give us a call, maybe we can help?
You now have an understanding of your legal obligations, and the environment you’re in. You’ve no doubt started to form an understanding of the risks that the organisation is facing. That’s good. That’s your role now.
But how do you form the best picture of those risks, and how are you going to manage them? We’re going to return to the excellent NCVO once again for some help. Take a look at the Risk Assessment Toolkit to help you figure it out.
What else makes a good Trustee at this point? Our super-Trustees have some thoughts:
Every Trustee must understand the finances.
Too many Trustees put themselves in the role of expert on one area, and defer their other responsibilities to “qualified” peers. It seems to be most commonly this is with either the finances, or the art.
Understanding the finances that underpin the decisions you are making, is part of how you support your organisation to do their best work.
Luckily, the wonderful Dorothy Dalton has produced this “gentle guide for the non-financial charity Trustee”. Your bedtime reading is now sorted for this week…