Why become a trustee?

18 November 2016

Reflecting on the recent Trustees Week campaign, Community First Vice Chair and Home-start trustee, Trevor Lewis offers his reflections on the changing nature of the trustee’s role and the challenges charities currently face.

“The austerity programmes introduced by government and implemented through local authorities have reduced the funding available to many front-line services which has in turn created gaps in service provision to many of the most vulnerable people in our communities. To make best use of the resources available, certain local authority services are being outsourced to any willing and capable provider and the role of the charity sector in meeting the needs of groups of individuals no longer targeted for funding is becoming even more significant.

This new funding landscape presents both challenges and opportunities for charities, many of which are facing increasing demands for their services against a backdrop of reducing funding from traditional sources. To be sustainable, charities can no longer rely on partial local authority funding, but must diversify their revenue streams to strive for long-term sustainability. To achieve this shift, Boards of Trustees must now operate as small businesses with an appropriate focus on three year strategies, detailed annual budgets and cash-flow forecasts and with trustees becoming more active in identifying funding opportunities, from all sources, to meet the charity’s strategic objectives. To bid for outsourced commissions from local authorities requires charities to be efficient, to have evidence of successful service delivery, to have a credible delivery programme and to have the skills required to submit professional proposals to the tender process. Similar skills are needed to bid for funds from regional and national charitable trusts and foundations. To raise funds from local businesses, charities must have trustees to support staff in forming win-win relationships with businesses with a corporate social responsibility commitment to their local communities. Good use needs to be made of IT to ensure a strong web presence, to make full use of social media and to build a database of supporters to invite to events and to create a vehicle for donations, sponsorship and legacies. Where charities have paid staff, trustees can take away the burden of finding funding, allowing staff to concentrate on the critical task of providing front-line services.

Many charities operate already on these principles, but many do not. To improve their chances of sustainability, charities need to set in train the quality processes necessary to ensure longevity and to review the skills available in the Boards of Trustees, with new trustees being recruited to fill any skills gaps.

If you are committed to improving the quality of life of the less fortunate in our community, have skills to offer which can improve the ability of charities to survive in the new landscape, then please come forward. There are many vacancies for trustees locally which can be found on the Community First database – Volunteer Wessex. We look forward to you joining us!”

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