Trustees April 19 2012

Cafe event in April: Trustees, 19 April 2012 (see below for write up of event)

For organisations doing vital work in communities across the city, a strong board of trustees is more important than ever - how can local organisations ensure they make best use of the trustee resource offered by those who live and work in the city? 

This month we are delighted to welcome Janet Atkinson, Nicola Smith and Kate Senter to the Cafe. They each, in different ways, have longstanding involvements with trusteeship in the city.

As former CEO of Shefield Alcohol Service, Nicola will explore, in conversation with Janet, some of the major challenges she faced when she led the charity through a very challenging time as it sought to re-shape to survive in a new funding environment. Some of you may have had the opportunity to hear Janet and Nicola in conversation at a VAS event on trusteeship last year. We are delighted to be able to offer another opportunity to listen in as Janet - an experienced trustee and consultant herself - discusses the ups and downs of Nicola's journey with her, highlighting many issues that will resonate with any of us involved in leading value-based organisations through periods of great change. 

Kate Senter is Internal Communications Manager at Irwin Mitchell and leads on corporate social responsibility for the firm. Last year's president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce she is now National Communications Director for JCI UK. A trustee herself, she is very active in exploring opportunities for JCI members to continue to develop relationships with local third sector organisations in ways which help their personal development and offer real benefits for the sector in the city. She will share some of her perspective on how the sector can tap into the resource her members represent.

Cafe write up

We launched our new Third Sector Cafe series of discussions on Thursday 19 April with a discussion on trusteeship.

Feedback so far has been great - and we're delighted that one organisation even signed up a potential new trustee on the night! How's that for a nice, tangible outcome?  

Sheffield-based organisations like Young Carers & Chillypep, Roundabout, Kiveton Park and Wales Community Development Trust, the GIST Foundation, Online Centres Foundation, Haven House Project, FURD, Share Psychotherapy, Churches Together and Kickstart helped us to shape the debate by submitting their questions on trusteeship in advance. They reflected a shared concern for issues such as:  

"what are reasonable expectations to have, or roles to give to, voluntary trustees?"

"how can you help volunteer trustees maintain enthusiasm for projects that are outside of their interest area as an organisation develops and therefore its areas of impact/activity develop?"

"what range of expertise is ideal for a board of Trustees?"

"how can we recruit - and support - some new Trustees - including some young people?"

"what's the best way to identify the right people to build a relevant Board of Trustees?"

Briefed with the questions beforehand, our 3 speakers Kate Senter, Nicola Smith and Janet Atkinson drew on their collective experience to offer a range of different perspectives in response. Kate's private sector insight complemented Janet and Nicola's third sector experience - their long term involvement kept suggestions realistic with an emphasis on practical, low cost yet implementable ideas. 

Example top tips from each of them included:

Kate - consider joining a Sheffield business network such as the JCI (which Kate is involved with) or the Lyons Den to help your organisation be more visible to the business community.

Janet - think in terms of a three step plan to build a resilient board, and be prepared for it to take at least 18 months (which she went on to illustrate)

Nicola - read Mike Hudson's classic text for third sector managers and trustees "Managing without Profit" - now in its 15th year and still seen as an essential resource by many.

Overall we learnt that many organisations are struggling with similar questions in relation to trusteeship. For some, it was reassuring to find that they were not alone in struggling with a particular issue - and that finding it hard, didn't necessarily mean that they were doing something wrong ... it could just mean that it was a hard issue to resolve. 

While most participants we spoke to ended the session feeling that there were a lot of things they recognised that they are doing right - most also felt that the shared expertise in the room had had something useful to offer them. 

"I got contacts, advice energy, support, ideas, sympathetic and encouraging nods :)"

More info

We'll be following up with the participants to see how they are doing with the issues they brought along to the cafe - and we'll update you on what we learn in future postings. Meanwhile, if you'd like a taster of the evening you can listen-in to a post event round-up discussion between us (Sophy & Laura) and two of our three speakers -  Nicola and Janet via this short audio clip here. 

And if you'd like more info, we'll be putting together a resource pack with the key information and resources from the session and will make it available to download here when its ready.

Next month

We're now working on the next session - suggestions we've had so far include:

  • a specific session on young trusteeship - thinking of inviting Bill Badham of Practical Participation to tell us more about some of the great stuff they've been doing in this area: if you want to attract some young, facebook/twitter savvy trustees, this could be the session for you!
  • a session on practical ways to raise your charity's profile with a next to nothing marketing budget
  • an insiders guide to good project management - with insight in how not to do it and lessons learned along the way
  • digital marketing - perhaps in collaboration with GIST who've kindly offered some expertise here
  • a guide to restructuring your charity to make it fit for a renewed/revised purpose

We're constantly on the look out for great speakers and good ideas for sessions - if you've suggestions for either, please contact us.