My mum brought me up to be helpful, so this is hopefully a helpful blog if you’re thinking of applying to become a trustee. (I hear there’s a College of Teaching looking for people.) I’ve been acting as a trustee for six years now, so this is one area of EduWorld where I genuinely know what I’m talking about.
This is a great starting point for new trustees. If you’re seriously interested, I recommend you read it in full rather than just skim it. Trustees have an awful lot of responsibility and need to have various skills. When I first started out, I didn’t know how to read accounts, manage cashflow, plan staffing, find funding – you may have to do all these things. The role comes with various legal responsibilities, so be aware of these as well. You must ensure that the charity stays solvent and fulfills its remit. You must keep up to date with charity and employment law (for instance, we had to implement recent changes to staff pensions, just as an employer would have to do.) You will also need to get annual accounts prepared, and help to write an annual report, which are both submitted to the Charity Commission. In a large charity, the trustees hand over most of the day-to-day running of the charity to paid employees. However, you may well be asked to play a part in recruiting staff. Being a trustee is a big ask and it will take up more of your time than you think it might. I would reckon that helping to run preschool has taken up around 10 hours a week, on average, over the last six years.
The other thing to remember about trustees, is that people tend to come with their own agendas (see here). Someone has to control that tendency, which is where the chair of trustees can help. As chair, you need to be a balanced and well organised person. Your job is to get the other trustees to make decisions – to arrange meetings, to figure out what needs deciding, and to take votes on it. I enjoy chairing meetings, but there’s a very fine balance between being bossy and getting things done. Being a charity trustee is incredibly rewarding, and I feel privileged to have had the chance to do it. If you’re even half thinking about it, then I’d recommend that you go for it. Because …
“No one has ever become poor by giving.”