Delighted to sit down with Dan Francis, trustee of Hackney CVS, which provides local community and voluntary organisations with key skills, knowledge, grants and resources to respond to the needs of local people.
• Why did you want to become a trustee and how much time do you spend being one?
I wanted to make a contribution locally to my community and use my skills outside of work and it’s roughly a day a month.
• What’s a typical day look like when you are working with your trustee hat on?
Well, it doesn’t fall over a single day that’s the first thing, it tends to be spread across a few hours each week. It may involve reading papers, working with a senior manager to support a particular project, or attending a meeting. It’s also great to get exposure to the work of the organisation and so attending a few key events each year helps build your understanding of the charity and their work.
• How do you make sure you are being effective / doing a good job – both individually and as a board?
We have just undertaken an externally led independent governance review, that has been key in showing where our strengths are and where we need to focus.
• What’s the best thing and hardest thing about being a trustee?
Getting to work closely with a diverse group of fellow trustees and amazingly committed staff.
The hardest would be that it involves tough decisions, sometimes you second guess those choices. I find that ensuring you have good information, that you weigh up risks and consider the charities core purpose helps. But there is no getting around it, the decisions are not always easy and the path to achieving your goals is not always clearly mapped out.
• How has becoming a trustee enhanced your career prospects or brought you personal fulfilment?
I find it personally very fulfilling over the last five years to know I’ve made a contribution to the area I live in. I have felt more connected and engaged with local issues and people as a result.
• Does your board have people from a range of backgrounds on it? What’s it been like getting to know them and understanding their perspectives?
It has been great that our board involves a huge range of people, those with commercial backgrounds, those from law or finance, as well as leaders of community group. The coming together of these perspectives has helped us make better decisions.
• What’s your top tip to anyone thinking of becoming a trustee?
Pick something you really care about. It’s better to wait a little longer before making the commitment until the right thing comes along. Don’t rush it, it will happen. Remember you are making a commitment. Oh also, learn about your responsibilities and network with trustees outside of your board!