Become a charity trustee – it changed my life
Starting with ActionAid, 40 years of volunteering has taught me valuable skills that have enriched my career and social network I began my career as a charity trustee 40 years ago, and while it’s difficult to know where I would be and what I’d be doing if I hadn’t taken on the role, I know that it set me on the path to the varied and meaningful life I have now.
When I was a young man, coming from a modest background, I knew I had to gain a skill that made me employable. I chose accountancy, because I was good with numbers. But by the time I was 35 and working in finance at a large, multinational business I yearned for something more values-based. That’s when I joined the charity ActionAid, and subsequently became chair of trustees.
The experience was invaluable. Like many other charities, ActionAid, an organisation that’s dedicated to giving people choices and eliminating poverty, had a complex range of stakeholders to deal with.
Discussions and debate with other trustees, and people who had very different backgrounds to me, helped me to understand the effect that behaviour, beliefs and commitment play in decision-making. I also began to understand that it wasn’t just technical skills and know-how that achieve results: you have to learn what influences people’s thinking.
Those lessons were put to great use when I became a human resources director of a company employing 40,000 staff, especially when I had to introduce a cultural-change programme. It also proved vital when, as head of a business that distributed a third of national newspapers, Fleet Street embraced new technology and we had to reach agreement with proprietors, unions and the media. We had to weigh up their different experiences and perspectives and find a way to progress.
Still, it’s fair to say working as a trustee hasn’t always been an easy ride. Having spent time on the boards of many third-sector organisations, there was one occasion when we were faced with a chief executive who simply was not being effective. It was then that I had to develop strong leadership skills. Overcoming challenges like this has made being a trustee even more rewarding.
Above all, the most important thing that being a trustee has given me is friendship. I very much doubt that I would otherwise have had the opportunity to meet such amazing people from all walks of life. Many of them have become firm friends. The difference it has made to my social network, something that’s so important to having a rich and happy life, is wonderful.
I think the best trustee role I’ve ever had is the one I’m currently working in. It’s chairing Getting on Board, a charity which helps a wide range of people to become leaders in their communities through volunteering on boards. Enabling other people with so many different personal attributes and life experiences to benefit from trusteeship, as I have done, is a real pleasure. Don’t hesitate if you’re considering it. It changed my life.
(source: Guardian Voluntary Network)
What's your story, would you like to share your experiences? We'd love to hear from you, just leave us a comment and we'll get back to you.