‘What makes you want to be a Trustee? Isn’t that something that retired people do?’
To be fair to the numerous people of various ages that asked me some version of the first question in this blog’s title when I mentioned my interest in joining the Board of Trustees of Action Hampshire, questions around motivation tend to be good in most circumstances.
Also to be fair those that asked the second question, many incredible people who happen to be retired devote hours upon hours to trustee positions across the country. Meanwhile less than 10 per cent of trustees in England and Wales are under age 35. As far as erroneous generalisations go, this one wasn’t anywhere near the worst I have ever heard.
Now coming up on 6 months into my time as a Trustee of Action Hampshire, I’m reflecting on my original motivations to be involved with Action Hampshire; a desire to build on past experiences and a motivation to help make a real difference.
I was lucky enough to have had previous trustee experience, from my time in Student Union leadership as an undergraduate. A few years ago when I ran for Student Union President admittedly my manifesto included no reference to the roles of Student Governor on the University’s Board of Governors or the Chair of the Student Union’s Board of Trustees.
However after an invigoratingly diverse year as President where everyday was different and simultaneously operational, strategic and representational, the experiences on those two boards stood out. Not only did they give me the opportunities to learn through doing about the multifaceted procedures and processes of charity governance but my fellow Trustees demonstrated just how vital and valuable a role charity Trustees fulfill, working on a volunteer basis. Before this, my conceptualisation of volunteering was handing out sandwiches after a flood, being a costumed interpreter at a historical property, moving new students into halls all a far cry from reading proposals and papers, discussing financial forecasts and helping to draft strategic plans.
Once I got my current job at the University of Winchester I was interested in volunteering in some capacity and the idea of being a Trustee again would not resign itself to a mental backburner. It felt to me that I shouldn’t waste my (limited, but present all the same) experiences of Trusteeship and my natural affinity for both reading lots of information and having discussions at meetings.
Looking at organisations seeking Trustees was eye-opening but admittedly increasingly frustrating. Each organisation’s focus seemed more worthy, interesting and engaging than the next. Did I want devote time to an organisation working on community music, or literacy support, or mental health awareness, or international aid, or (fill in the blank with any worthy focus)? Yes was my answer to all of them. Every single one.
Then came a chance introduction to Sue Dovey, Action Hampshire’s formidable CEO.
Sue explained how this amazing charity delivers important projects like building affordable rural houses and training social entrepreneurs. Then she described how Action Hampshire works to represent, support and strengthen the whole of the not-for-profit and social enterprise sector, including over 1000 member organisations across the full range of worthy focuses that I had been struggling to narrow down. Learning about Action Hampshire was a game-changer. This was the organisation that I knew I would be honoured to be a part of as a Trustee.
Part of my attraction to Action Hampshire is, I believe, the similarities that it has to the Higher Education sector in which I work full-time. Both Action Hampshire and universities have a strong, overarching missions and then numerous ways they strive to make that mission a reality- through education, research, advocacy, outreach. For me, like Higher Education, Action Hampshire holds dear a fundamental belief in people and the ability for their passions and potential to change the world for the better; I could not be more proud and honoured to be a small part of it.