Life of a Trustee!

We sit down with Darren Franklin, trustee at Relate to find out what his day as a trustee looks like.

Relate is the UK’s largest provider of relationship support, and last year they helped over two million people of all ages, backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities to strengthen their relationships.

“When I was asked to write ‘A day in the life of a trustee’, I agreed without hesitation and then when I had to put fingers to keyboard, I suddenly thought is there a typical day for trustees? There are so many of us out there bringing our skills, experience and value to the charities that we serve, with many of us working full time, there’s not really a ‘typical day’ so I thought I would share my experience as a Trustee with some of the activities and time spent.

I became a Trustee from a sense of community and to give more than just donating money. It has provided an opportunity to develop my skills and experience. It has been, and continues to be, an interesting journey in terms of what I have learnt, the people I have met and the value I bring to the organisation.

I am the Treasurer and Chair of the finance committee for Relate, the UK’s leading relationships charity. They work to develop and support healthy relationships across the UK by delivering high quality services that change lives. This includes information provision, support and counselling.

The time commitment of being a trustee will vary by organisation type, size and board constitution. For Relate, there are four main board meetings a year. Pre-pandemic, these were one day face to face meetings. We used online meetings during lockdown which, although I missed the social face to face interaction of meeting fellow trustees, they worked very well. Moving forward we will probably use a mixture of online and face to face. We have sub-committees and depending on which committee you sit on, will determine the frequency of meetings. For the finance committee which I Chair, we meet four times a year. These meetings are between an hour to an hour and half and are via video conferencing. I usually speak to the CEO before the finance committee meeting and we agree any additional agenda items over and above the standing items. These calls typically last between 30 minutes to an hour.

As well as the board and committee meetings there is the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and board development. The AGM provides the opportunity to present how the charity has performed both financially and non-financially as well as a forward-looking statement on our goals and objectives for the forthcoming year. The AGM is between 1 – 2 hours. The board development is a day we spend together reviewing and / or developing the strategy. The only other time requirement is reading the board and committee papers. These are issued a week before the meetings. The time spent will depend on the content of the papers and how quickly you read!

In our careers we are used to performance appraisal and although serving on a charity board is voluntary, it is still important to review performance both individually and as a board. The individual piece takes the form of a ‘performance review’ with the Chair of trustees and can include the CEO. It’s an opportunity to reflect on how you are performing as a trustee and get some feedback. You can also highlight areas that you would like some development in. Some charities do have development budgets for the board so there is an opportunity for further training and development. The board performance can be reviewed not only by the ‘hard’ metrics of achievement of goals and objectives but also of the softer elements of trust, communication and board cohesion. This information can be gathered via survey, results captured and an ensuring action plan from the themes identified.

Being a trustee, you get to meet and work with some amazing people. There is a richness in the diversity of thought, opinion and experience. Everybody brings a unique perspective and although you may not agree with some of those perspectives, you learn so much. Your personal growth translates into all aspects of your life – family, friends and work.

Anyone thinking of becoming a trustee, I would say go for it! It is such a fulfilling role. It can be hard and challenging, sometimes even frustrating however the sense of pride, purpose, community and achievement is immeasurable.!

If you would like to find out more about becoming a trustee, we are offering a free 60 minute online session, where Ian Joseph, Managing Director of Trustees Unlimited will introduce what it means to be a trustee, the responsibilities involved, and how to become one.

This event is open to anyone that would like to know more about the charity world and trusteeship.

Register your free spot today.

Not sure some of the terms used? We have created a jargon buster to help you cut through complexity and get straight to the definition, explanation and content that you need.

Our commitment to diversity & inclusion

Trustees Unlimited believes that diverse boards strengthen society. We will strive to remove the barriers that prevent people from applying to become trustees and help our clients to recruit and support people with a wide range of skills and lived experience.

Find out more