4. What does your role as a trustee involve?
I am a trustee of the charity and its Honorary Treasurer.
The main duties of a charity trustee involves areas such as ensuring the charity complies with its governing document and is pursuing its objectives, ensuring the charity’s resources are being applied appropriately in the pursuit of its objectives, actively contributing to the Board of Trustees, supporting the organisation’s financial viability, ensuring the charity’s governance is of the highest standard, and making use of any specific skills, knowledge or experience to help the Board make good decisions.
The Honorary Treasurer’s main purpose is to oversee the financial affairs of the charity, ensure proper records are kept and that effective financial procedures are in place, monitor and report on the financial health of the organisation, oversee the production of necessary financial reports and returns (including assisting with the year-end external audit), and to work effectively with the Executive Team on financial matters.
- What would you say are the important attributes a trustee should have?
I believe it is important for a trustee to be genuinely passionate about the charity’s work and its plans for the future. You should not sign up to support a charity if you do not care about or support the charity’s aims and objectives.
A trustee also needs to have the ability to give time and energy to their charity. I am very fortunate in that the Financial Times gives all its employees up to two days of paid leave from work in any one calendar year to participate in charitable or community initiatives. However, in my dual role at the charity I am still required to use days from my annual leave allowance to attend necessary meetings. Before signing up to be a trustee, do not underestimate the time commitment involved – a current trustee will be able to give you a good idea as to what it means in reality. Not being present at key meetings is not fair to your charity. However, with meetings typically taking place during normal office hours, a trustee may need to have a supportive employer to enable them to fulfil their duties. As a trustee, you are there for a purpose and your ability to effectively support and challenge your charity are important aspects of the role.
A willingness to share your knowledge and connections is another important attribute. It can be a challenge for many charities to get appropriate quality guidance and advice. A very good example is GDPR compliance, where many large corporates/organisations were able to pay for legal expertise but it was a challenge for many smaller charities. As a trustee, you may have industry contacts, professional connections, and supplier contacts that can help your charity and you are in a prime position to help connect those parties together. I regard it as a time when you can call on those favours you may have in the business world, for a very good cause!
Above all, a trustee must have integrity and an ethical mindset. As an accountant and internal auditor, integrity is one of the attributes you must possess and demonstrate when conducting your work. A trustee with integrity is likely to demonstrate the following characteristics: honesty; fairness; reliability; accountability; practises and encourages open communications; complies with laws and regulations; respects and contributes to the legitimate and ethical objectives of the organisation; and their actions are consistent with their words.
- What do you think is the biggest challenge currently facing charities?
Looking beyond the challenging economic climate and the expectations that demands for the charitable services are likely to increase in the future, I think one of the biggest challenges that charities have faced in recent times has been the adverse public perception of what they do, how they manage their resources, and how they interact with beneficiaries and vulnerable parties, which has eroded public trust. Many good charities are reliant on donations and they may be unduly penalised by this lack of trust by the general public.
The Printing Charity has challenged this trend. Its surveys of the people it supports with financial assistance have received excellent results and a strong emphasis on safeguarding is central to its governance.
- How has The Printing Charity changed since you’ve been a trustee?
In the two years I have been a trustee I have seen the charity take so many positive steps in increasing its value to those in need. Under the leadership of our CEO, Neil Lovell, who is supported by our Chairman, Jon Wright, and the other trustees, we have seen the Print Futures Awards go from strength to strength in terms of the number of applications and winners. We continue to update the charity’s systems, processes, and resources. Both trustees and staff hold a great amount of optimism in the charity’s future influence and its ability to work more efficiently in the future. Although nearly 200 years old, The Printing Charity is very much a 21st century charity.
- What impact does the role of a trustee have on the charity?
The key impact of a trustee’s role is the sharing of knowledge and expertise. It enables The Printing Charity to draw on different skill sets from the commercial sector to help it achieve its charitable aims of promoting independence, protecting dignity, and furthering education.
- If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about becoming a trustee what would it be?
Once you have taken into consideration factors such as what you can contribute including availability of time, the one piece of advice I would give is just go for it.
Being a trustee may be the most rewarding ‘work’ experience in your career to date. Doing something for the good of others should not be about giving yourself an egoistical slap on the back, many charities are small and the good you can do may not be measurable in terms of great public recognition, but if a cause is genuinely important to you, you do not need to be celebrated. I believe our work legacies and contribution to the world can extend beyond what we get paid to do!
- How important is the relationship between the chairman and chief executive of a charity?
It is a critical relationship that drives a charity forward. Our Chairman and Chief Executive come from different commercial backgrounds but they are both imbued with a love of print and the role print in its many forms plays in our everyday lives.