Taking the lead

It's Trustees Week this week, and Chris Freed shares some of her experiences as Chair of VAL in the current climate.

Being a trustee of a charity can be quite challenging – but very rewarding. I know. It sounds like a bit of a cliche, but in my experience it happens to be true. As a trustee of VAL, it is exciting being able to influence what's happening in the voluntary and community sector in Lewisham.

Being on the Board of VAL for the last three years has given me the opportunity to work with a diverse range of people with different approaches, skills and points of view. While this makes it difficult, at times, to come to an agreement on particular issues it’s always welcome to get a different take on things and be challenged in my thinking. Besides, we always have cakes at our meetings - which adds an air of informality to the business of governance and can calm (almost) any tension.

It’s also stretched me, both in terms of my knowledge, but also having to help the whole Board look at things strategically.  In the current climate, with a challenge to the resources available for the sector, we as trustees will have to take a more radical strategic approach to how we organise ourselves and deliver our services to those who need it most - with fewer resources. Financial expertise on boards is also crucial if we’re to make sure we have the foundations in place to navigate the changes ahead.

Ongoing development as trustees is important if we’re to help keep ahead of the changes. I rely on a good staff team to support the work of the Board, both practically and in level of knowledge and understanding.  In addition, I have been fortunate to be able to access support through Association of Chairs, a new organisation set up to support Chairs of Trustees.

Are you a new or nearly new trustee? Want to learn more about leading in challenging times? Come to our evening training for trustees, Governance for change: getting the basics right tomorrow, 12 November.