Explore the Charity Commission’s Guidance
Your starting place (whether you’re new or not!) should always be the Charity Commission. It is the body to which trustees are accountable and by which they are are regulated. As an initial step have a look at the commission’s guidance outlining the six key duties of trustees and explaining the legal responsibilities. This should be your first port of call for understanding the essential requirements of being a trustee.
Get Some Training
It is critical that trustees have the necessary skills to contribute fully to a board, so it’s a good idea to identify early on where there be might be gaps in your abilities. This isn’t about being an expert in every single element of running a charity – but trustees do need to ensure that they can maintain a general grasp of everything that’s going on.
Many boards run a skills analysis of new trustees, but it is always helpful to reflect first on where you might need support. As trustees progress through their board career, it’s useful to do regular self-appraisals, as well as encouraging the whole board to appraise itself annually as well. Self-appraisal will help trustees realise when it’s time to move on – another important element of being a good trustee.
Get a Mentor
One of the best steps you can take if you’re new to anything, not just a board, is to find yourself a mentor. At first, you may want to consider someone who is already on the board – a sympathetic ear to just sound check ideas with. If you’ve been a trustee for a while, however, and already know the organisation, it is worthwhile getting a mentor from a different board. That will allow you to compare experiences and seek best practice from elsewhere. Obviously, this doesn’t have to be formal – a coffee before a meeting or a drink afterwards will suffice. This is about networking with your peer group.
If you are already a trustee, then offer to mentor someone else – it’s always nice when a newbie enters the room and is offered support like this.
To view the full Guardian Voluntary Sector Network article click here.