‘Char­i­ties have his­tor­i­cally strug­gled to plug the skills gap in south Wales’

Western Mail - - BUSINESS IN WALES - Chris Pyke Busi­ness re­porter chris.pyke@waleson­line.co.uk

THE one mil­lion trus­tees, supporting al­most 200,000 char­i­ties across the UK, help to make the UK the sixth most giv­ing coun­try in the world. With Trus­tees’ Week (Novem­ber 13-17, 2017) upon us, Sarah Case, di­rec­tor at ad­vi­sory firm Broom­field & Alexan­der, of­fers her ex­pe­ri­ence on what makes a good trustee, the im­por­tance of fi­nan­cial skills and how in­di­vid­u­als, as well as char­i­ties, can ben­e­fit from the ex­pe­ri­ence.

It de­pends what char­i­ties are look­ing for. It can be dif­fi­cult if char­i­ties are seek­ing a trustee with a par­tic­u­lar skill set.

Across the board in south Wales, char­i­ties have his­tor­i­cally strug­gled to plug the skills gap, and there are var­i­ous rea­sons for it, in­clud­ing the fact that we’re a rel­a­tively small re­gion and be­cause be­ing a trustee can be rather time-con­sum­ing, which pre­vents large num­bers of peo­ple from com­ing for­ward and vol­un­teer­ing.

We work with a lot of char­i­ties and it feels like the most asked ques­tion is, “Do you know any­body that would like to be a trustee?”

It’s im­por­tant to recog­nise that it isn’t al­ways enough to have your heart in the right place.

While pas­sion is a must, trus­tees need to be able to bring more to the ta­ble.

There are a whole host of things that make a good trustee. Many, for ex­am­ple, will have been re­cruited for their spe­cific skill set, like fi­nance or mar­ket­ing for ex­am­ple, but a good trustee also brings with them other life and busi­ness skills – such as com­mu­ni­ca­tion, ne­go­ti­a­tion, lead­er­ship – as well as per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, which all helps in in­form­ing the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process.

It’s cru­cial that trus­tees un­der­stand their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and keep up to date with guid­ance from the Char­i­ties Com­mis­sion, as this can be an area where char­i­ties fall down.

The ba­sics re­ally mat­ter when you’re a trustee, though, even down to turn­ing up on time and en­sur­ing that the pa­per­work for meet­ings is prop­erly read.

Trus­tees, and the char­i­ties that they rep­re­sent, ben­e­fit when peo­ple are pos­i­tively en­gaged at meet­ings – ask­ing ques­tions and scru­ti­n­is­ing the work of se­nior of­fi­cers in an at­mos­phere of trans­parency.

A dif­fer­ence of opin­ion isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing, so long as the chal­lenge is con­struc­tive.

They are im­por­tant skills, but you don’t have to be an ac­coun­tant. What you do need is to make sure that your un­der­stand­ing of fi­nance is enough to sat­isfy your­self – it’s ef­fec­tively self-due dili­gence.

If your fi­nan­cial skills aren’t a strong point, it’s all the more im­por­tant that you have con­fi­dence in the trea­surer, and that he or she is giv­ing enough de­tail when re­port­ing on fig­ures and can demon­strate a good job is be­ing done. Pay­ing at­ten­tion to fi­nan­cial re­ports – writ­ten and ver­bally – is key.

We al­most al­ways be­gin with a skills au­dit, which looks at what skills are needed on the board of trus­tees and how many peo­ple are be­ing sought.

We rec­om­mend that char­i­ties are spe­cific with po­ten­tial trus­tees about what the com­mit­ment in­volves, in order that peo­ple know ex­actly what they are tak­ing on, for ex­am­ple, how many meet­ings will be held per month or whether there are any spe­cific ini­tia­tives that their help will be needed with.

It’s im­por­tant to be open-minded about di­ver­sity, too. It’s some­times un­avoid­able, but in gen­eral, it isn’t healthy for a char­ity to have a board of trus­tees made up of en­tirely the same peo­ple.

Hav­ing a di­verse range of peo­ple around the ta­ble re­ally en­hances the qual­ity of de­ci­sions that are made.

Ab­so­lutely. The trus­tees that re­ally make a dif­fer­ence are those who do more than just the reg­u­lar meet­ings and take an ac­tive in­ter­est in what’s go­ing on – be­ing will­ing to give more time can make the world of dif­fer­ence. It’s im­por­tant, of course, that trus­tees recog­nise the bound­ary be­tween their role and that of the day-to-day man­age­ment of any char­ity, but get­ting in­volved where you can, and re­ally un­der­stand­ing what is be­ing de­liv­ered, adds a depth to the re­la­tion­ship that might oth­er­wise be dif­fi­cult to cre­ate.

DO CHAR­I­TIES FIND IT HARD TO RE­CRUIT TRUS­TEES IN YOUR EX­PE­RI­ENCE? WHAT MAKES A GOOD TRUSTEE? ARE GOOD FI­NAN­CIAL MAN­AGE­MENT SKILLS IM­POR­TANT IN A TRUSTEE? WHAT AD­VICE DO YOU GIVE TO CHAR­I­TIES IN TERMS OF RE­CRUIT­ING TRUS­TEES? HAVE YOU SEEN EX­AM­PLES OF TRUS­TEES WHO HAVE RE­ALLY MADE A DIF­FER­ENCE TO THE SUC­CESS OF A CHAR­ITY? WHAT DOES AN IN­DI­VID­UAL GET OUT OF BE­COM­ING A TRUSTEE?

The stand-out ben­e­fit has got to be the sense of sat­is­fac­tion that comes from giv­ing some­thing back and mak­ing a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence.

De­pend­ing on the char­ity, this could mean help­ing adults or chil­dren liv­ing in poverty, im­prov­ing the lives of sick or vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple or tack­ling cru­elty to hu­mans or an­i­mals.

How­ever, peo­ple who have some of the skills that char­i­ties are look­ing for shouldn’t just con­sider these op­por­tu­ni­ties for al­tru­is­tic rea­sons. If you are pas­sion­ate about the cause and you have the time, then work­ing as a trustee can also help to broaden your ex­pe­ri­ence. It can bring you into con­tact with other like-minded peo­ple who may end up be­ing help­ful to you in a pro­fes­sional ca­pac­ity – and it looks pretty good on your CV too.

> Sarah Case, char­i­ties and not-for-profit di­rec­tor at Broom­field & Alexan­der, of­fers her ex­pe­ri­ence on what makes a good trustee

> It’s cru­cial that trus­tees keep up to date with guid­ance from the Char­i­ties Com­mis­sion

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