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Inspired to become a Trustee

06 November 2016

The vital role of Trustees in Bedfordshire (2)

The vital role of Trustees in Bedfordshire – With a theme of ‘Stronger Charities through Good Leadership’ for this year’s Trustees’ week, we take a look at what drives a Business leader to volunteer their skills in a local charity .
John Owen talks about what inspired him to volunteer as a Trustee

I arranged to meet John at his home near Bedford early one morning in October. The rush and chaos of the school run was already over and the aroma of a good coffee brewing signalled that order had been restored.

John is fairly new to Bedford, having previously lived in many countries, both in Europe and beyond.  He describes himself as a workaholic, having spent much of his career to date working around 16 hours a day.

We talked about what prompted him to volunteer as a trustee and John explained that when his most recent appointment with BAE Systems left him with more time on his hands than he was used to, quite apart from being able to spend more time with his children, and enjoy some golf, he started thinking about getting his teeth into something else. 

John has come face to face with the homeless in many of the countries he has lived in.  He has witnessed deaths on the streets as a consequence of drug abuse and recalls a particular time in Frankfurt 1998/99 when the homeless would regularly inject heroin in the streets across from his office block.  John's commitments at the time allowed him no opportunity to follow up his concerns.  The same types of things were happening in Portugal, Holland, Belgium, in shanty towns of South Africa and whichever part of the world John's work was taking him to.  Here in Bedford, after working well into the night on one occasion, he went out on the streets to get food and witnessed the same level of drug-taking amongst the homeless.  He knew then that he wanted to engage with this issue and this time he had the capacity to do so.

John 'googled' volunteering, found out about a charity called Amicus Trust through the Do-it Volunteering website, and spoke to our Volunteering Advisor at Community Voluntary Service.  He was referred through to Amicus Trust by CVS and after discussions with their Chief Executive Officer was welcomed on-board with the organisation.

Although John had not previously been a trustee, but his interest in the services provided by Amicus Trust and the skills that he had to offer, made it an obvious way for him to get involved.  Amicus Trust provides housing and support for single homeless people and for military homeless and this made it a natural match with his current employment with BAE Systems, who are keen to support charitable projects with a link to their own activities.  The company confirmed that they would be happy to support his work as a trustee. John met with Amicus Trust and quickly became impressed with the services they provide and their values of trustworthiness, honesty and integrity, which reflect his own values.

As a natural questioner, with experience in projects and finance, John's skills are a perfect fit for his trustee role at Amicus Trust.  He is not looking to change what they are doing but rather to support the charity through offering ideas and opinions, checks and balances. He feels that it is important for trustees to ensure that the charity is not putting itself at risk, that all issues and potential issues are highlighted, and unknown risks identified.

John likes the fact that Amicus Trust has a clear direction, and a clear path to achieving their objectives.  Success in their work with homelessness for single people and for military veterans, means that people are given back their lives and helped to find employment. Their education programme ensures that the individuals they are helping are given the necessary skills to operate in today's world.  His passion for the cause is clear and fuelled by his own values and what he has observed of homelessness in his travels. He anticipates getting some more insight into the day to day work that Amicus is doing and it feels good to be involved.

John’s top tips on becoming a trustee: 

  1.  Know what you want to get out of it:  John knows that through his work with BAE he is helping to make the world a better place.  He takes pride in that.  Equally, he knows that he can be proud of the work he will be doing with Amicus Trust. This is what is important to him, and what he wants to be able to demonstrate to his children in the hope that one day they will also want to make the world a better place.
  2. Do it for the right reasons: It is important to have a connection with the organisation you are working for.  If you don’t feel this connection, then you will become disconnected. So, ensure that the aims and objectives of the organisation    that you will be volunteering for, match with your own interests and passions. Volunteering as a trustee, in order to tick boxes or enhance your CV is not enough.
  3. Make sure you can use your skill set: Your role as a trustee will be most valuable to the organisation and to yourself if you have the skill-sets that the organisation needs, but also if the organisation needs the skill sets that you have!
  4. Be aware of your responsibilities: Make sure you read up or find out about the responsibilities of becoming a trustee. There are some significant responsibilities and it is important to know about them.

All charitable organisations are governed by trustees and there are always opportunities to become involved for those with the right skills, abilities, and a passion for the vision of the charity they are considering. It is important to realise that being a trustee comes with significant responsibilities and a good guide to these can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-essential-trustee-what-you-need-to-know-cc3 . 

CVS runs training for trustees from time to time and can help on matters of governance and funding as well as volunteer recruitment. If you would like to consider becoming a trustee for a local organisation you can find out about vacancies that we are promoting throughout November by speaking to the Volunteering Advisor at CVS – email volunteering@cvsbeds.org.uk, 01234 354 366.  Also, keep a look out on CVS twitter feed @CVSbeds – we will be featuring all things trustee related throughout November.   

Next Volunteer event in Bedford

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