Being a trustee is an exciting and engaging role that allows creative thinking, supporting others and flexibility to stretch your ambitions outside of your day to day work. It also brings a responsibility to adhere to governance codes and legal obligations, make informed decisions, operate as part of a team, use a range of skills and expertise and put hours in beyond any paid position. A tall order in anyone’s book.
Some of us may be filled with excitement or trepidation at these aspects of being a trustee. Whatever our response, we must be clear about the value of a trustee as a significant and vital role in our society, our lives and our communities.
Each of us has been affected by the work of a trustee in one way or another. Trustees are the people we rely on to govern the organisations we depend on, but we rarely know who they are. However, trustees do not just appear and there isn’t a limitless supply of people queuing up to take positions.
The challenge of trustee recruitment, engagement and succession also is not just one for the Jewish community, but is a society wide issue. Research has shown that as many as 74% of charities say they find it hard to recruit trustees, and across the UK, there are 90,000 trustee vacancies. We should seek opportunities to learn from others in and outside of our community, using our experience and connections, to ensure a solid and sustainable future for our community organisations.
Being a trustee is tough but it can be rewarding, motivating and impactful. Research conducted by the charity Getting on Board found that 96% of trustees felt they learned new skills by being a trustee, 73% said it boosted their confidence and 84% said it made them happier.
As a community, we need ensure that we develop pathways for future leaders to engage in these key roles. Lead and the Jewish Volunteering Network (JVN) are already working to support individuals and organisations on their journey to enable effective and sustainable trustee boards. A key service provided by the JVN is that of matching potential trustees to organisations. This enables organisations to search beyond their immediate known networks.
Lead and JVN are also delighted to be welcoming Penny Wilson, CEO of Getting on Board as the keynote speaker at our now ‘sold out’ annual Jewish Community Trustees’ Conference on 4th June. Penny will be exploring the issue of diversity on trustee boards. This important issue must be embraced beyond a simple “box ticking” exercise. We need to move into an authentic appreciation of the value that diversity brings to a team.
We have a responsibility to sustain the amazing work done by thousands of charitable organisations in our community and this cannot fall to a limited percentage of the population.
We must remember that being a trustee isn’t just someone else’s job. The phrase in Pirke Avot by Rabban Gamliel resonates clearly in this context: ‘It is not our duty to complete the work, neither are we free to desist from it’. We each need to take responsibility by playing our part in the Jewish community that gives us so much.
You too could be a trustee.
- Article co-written by Michelle Janes, Lead, a division of the Jewish Leadership Council and Nicky Goldman, Jewish Volunteering Network