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Purpose, skills and people. Why becoming a trustee will bring you happiness.

Added: 27/02/2024

Voluntary Action Leeds

An experienced marketer working in technology for over a decade, Rachel Mcelroy is Marketing Director for advanced digital delivery consultancy Axiologik, based in Leeds.

She is a Board Trustee for Fareshare Yorkshire, Board member for Boycott Your Bed and part of the Yorkshire board of the Certified Institute of Marketing (CIM) as vice chair of events.

Introduction

A charity trustee is a volunteer who helps lead the charity and decide how they’re run alongside other trustees and their employees. Becoming a trustee is a great way of contributing to good causes you care about, learn new skills, and give you a real sense of purpose — outside of your day job.

It’s a vital way for the charity sector to tap into a myriad of beneficial skills for free. This means their budgets can be fully utilised on delivering their frontline services, instead of funding additional salaries.

In 2023 the charity commission reported over 100,000 vacancies for trustees. It is critical to attract people that can add value, from diverse backgrounds and experiences. They bring a fresh perspective and support for initiatives that will underpin the foundations of the charity far into the future. At a time when demand on charities is at an all-time high, trustees are a critical part of their operational strategy.

There are no specific qualifications needed and the time commitment is likely to be less than you expect for the reward. Many companies offer their employees volunteering days which are perfect to use as a trustee. At Axiologik we get 4 days a year to use outside of work for causes we care about.

I consider myself lucky to be a board member and trustee for Fareshare Yorkshire and Boycott Your Bed, an Action For Children fundraiser along with being an active supporter of Leeds Community Foundation.

From my own experiences these are my top 3 reasons to become a trustee.

1. Purpose

The planet is 4.5 billion years old and the average person’s life span in the UK is 80 years. What are your goals and what impact do you want to have in the short time you’re here? A key reason for me to get involved with charity work was so I could help deliver outcomes that have a lasting impact on other people. I had a challenging childhood and so I know first-hand that giving people hope when they feel they have none is essential. Life can be very hard at times and charities are a crucial lifeline that can quite literally be life changing for the people they engage with.

If changing people’s lives for the better is not enough of an impact then how about what having a clear purpose does to you as a person?

It is proven that having a strong sense of purpose supports personal growth and learning and keeps stress at bay. People with purpose tend to look after themselves better and be more resilient to challenges too.

2. Skills

Lifelong learning has been drilled into me for as long as I can remember, and you will learn so much working with a charity. The responsibilities of a trustee are deciding how the charity is run aligned with the vision and strategy of the organisation and to benefit the interests of the people it looks to support. This is a big responsibility, and you will learn new skills and hone existing ones. I bring my work and life experiences to the boards I sit on but knew little about the real-life world of charities. Learning how you your skills can be transferable to make a difference really gets you thinking about how you can add value. Skills you will use in abundance include strategy, creativity, tenacity, collaboration, communication, approachability, flexibility, leadership, listening, and teamwork. I have learnt so much already from staff, other trustees and volunteers. Going out and visiting services that are run by the charities has made me feel humble, grateful and even more determined to ensure the continued support for them.

3. People

I am a huge believer in the power of your networks and nowhere is the benefit of people and community more evident than when you are a trustee. Imagine meeting a new group of peers from a myriad of backgrounds and organisations. They share your values, have different lived experiences to you, and you are working towards a common goal. You probably wouldn’t have crossed paths with them in your usual world but your life is richer with them in it. That’s what you get when you become a trustee, and it allows you to grow and learn from others perspectives and knowledge. The charity in turn benefits from your personal network and connections. This is because everyone you know wants to understand the work you are doing and this people power amplifies the charities voice, helping their cause.

Happiness is what makes it matter

Purpose, skills and people are my top 3 reasons for becoming a trustee, but my final thought for you is happiness.

A recent report for the charity commission stated that 96% of trustees said they had learned new skills and 84% said being a trustee made them happier. Who doesn’t want to be happier?!

So, becoming a trustee will make you happier, teach you new skills that will change you, and introduce you to amazing people as you help make a difference.

What are you waiting for?  

Voluntary Action Leeds

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