1. Preparation

So, you’ve become a Trustee.

Or you’re about to.

Welcome to Governance.

Maybe you’ve read one of the 100-page tomes – “a quick introduction to Trusteeship” and now carry the disturbing weight of your newfound legal responsibilities.

Perhaps someone has explained it all to you…”it’s something to do with supporting people. But also holding them to account. And be strategic. Budgets!”

Feeling excited, inspired? You should be.

You are about to become an activist-campaigner, sharer of wisdom. You believe in arts and culture, their power to challenge, inspire, make sense of the world. You believe in the universal right to creativity. You burn with the possibilities of the work, the excitement of it.

Trusteeship. This is how you help the world. Your organisation needs you, no question! You can be the difference between them thriving or dying. Are you feeling it yet? Hold on to that.

So, where to start? How do you not make a hash of this crucial new role?

There’s so much to learn. No person can nail it from the off. You can’t read your way to ready. But this should give you what you need to make a fair go of the first bit.

We’ve asked a few brilliant Trustees to share their thoughts on the start of their Trustee journey:

Now. There are 3 things to get right before your first meeting – head space, knowledge, and skills:


Headspace

A different mental gear is required for Trusteeship to many other areas of life.

Key words: Calm, Inquisitive, Reflective

It can be intimidating, your first board meeting. It’s important you get in the right headspace beforehand. But what is “right”? It’s whatever helps you make the most of, and enjoy that first meeting. It’s specific to you. But as a starting point, this is what we suggest:

Calm – Step into the experience calmly, with an open mind, and carefully work out how you want to move forward. There’s no need to barrel in, take your time.

Inquisitive – to be an effective Trustee there is a lot to learn. For anyone. Even if you’ve been in governance roles before, every organisation and board has their quirks and idiosyncrasies. Be inquisitive about governance, about your organisation, yourself, and your colleagues.

Reflective – now is a time for reflection on what you read and experience, to ask yourself the question “what do I want my Trusteeship to look like, and how do I make that happen?”

But don’t just take it from us. Here’s some brilliant insight from some leading Trustees to help you get in the zone:


Knowledge

You have the mindset, now you need knowledge. We suggest you have a scan over our Survival Guide for your first board meeting, and also refer to our curated resources.

Here are the things you should know before your first meeting:

  • The role of the Trustee

  • The organisation’s goals. What does it exist to do, what change is it trying to make in the world?

  • The organisation’s current strategic and financial position

  • Which of your skills are going to be relevant to the role


Skills

If you’ve read any of the usual how-to guides, you’re probably acutely aware of the massive list of skills a Trustee is supposed to have. We’re not a fan of those lists as they seem like a great way to discourage people.

First off, we’d recommend you watch this video, ‘What Makes a Good Trustee’

Now, lets go back to basics.

This is your first meeting, you just need the foundations. You are about to join a group of people trying to make decisions together. The core skills you need to bring to this are about working in a group.

For your first meeting, in our opinion, the essential skills required are:

  1. Listening: we recommend scanning through this

  2. Questioning: we recommend reading this

Step confidently into the boardroom and start your journey to great governance!