Trustees’ Week – Jon Wright

Jon is a qualified accountant with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. He joined the Financial Times in 1974 and worked his way up to Acting Finance Director. From 2003 until his retirement in June this year, he was the Finance Director of Pearson Global Real Estate.

  1. When did you become a trustee?

I joined the charity in 2004 as a trustee and Honorary Treasurer, became Chairman of the Investment Committee in 2007, and was appointed Chairman of Council in 2013.

  1. Why did you become a trustee?

I had never considered being a trustee until the charity’s then Chairman, with whom I worked at the time, mentioned the charity was looking for a treasurer. Told it would only take up about an hour a week of my time, I decided to take it on but quickly realised the role would require a lot more of my time than I had initially expected.

When I stepped up to the Chairmanship, I was uncertain whether the charity still had a place. However, through the work it has done over the past five years to extend its reach, coupled with the fact the printing industry is still absorbing the impact of the digital revolution, it is clear that there is still a very real need for what the charity does.

  1. What is the best thing about being a trustee?

In a nutshell, the best thing about being a trustee is knowing that you are making a difference to so many people’s lives. That is a brilliant feeling because the charity is here to make life better for people facing difficult times.

Being able to share my expertise in finance, management, and property with the charity is another positive aspect of my role. The charity is beginning to upgrade its two sheltered home schemes for people, who have retired from the sector, and I am able to contribute by giving a steer on structuring the programme of work.

Another great thing about being a trustee is that you have the opportunity to learn new skills. As a member of the charity’s Investment Committee, which receives independent investment advice, I have gained a far greater knowledge of the investment world.

  1. What does your role as a trustee involve?

As Chairman, my role is to be available to help and guide my fellow trustees, our Chief Executive, and the Management Team when appropriate. In essence, I am a sounding board for ideas. It is also about identifying problems that may arise and how to resolve them if they do. That may involve advising on the steps to take or proposing additional resources that may need to be put in place.

  1. What would you say are the important attributes a trustee should have?

It is a given that trustees come with a particular area of expertise and a willingness to share that expertise to benefit the charity. It is a voluntary role so trustees have to be willing and able to give their time to the charity and their role, which includes preparing for and attending Council meetings.

  1. What do you think is the biggest challenge currently facing charities?

I think the biggest challenge for charities is not falling into the trap of providing essential services that are the Government’s responsibility. With funding cuts to services, it can be difficult for charities to strike the right balance. In my view, they should be careful not to be seen as a soft option to fall back on as providers of essential services.

  1. How has The Printing Charity changed since you’ve been a trustee?

The granting of our Supplemental Charter in 2014 has fundamentally changed the way we can help people. Recognising the importance of education and the digital age in our sector, it has allowed us to spread our net wider.

  1. What impact does the role of a trustee have on the charity?

The positive impact of the trustee role is the sharing of professional expertise and opening doors for the charity. The role is a strategic one, separate from the charity’s day-to-day operations carried out by its staff.

  1. If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about becoming a trustee what would it be?

Being a trustee is a well-kept secret. Admittedly, people can be put off by the fiduciary duty but that should not be seen as a barrier. The rules are not a straitjacket; they are there to guide and protect trustees and decisions are made with the help of expert advisors. My advice would be ‘just do it, you’ll enjoy it’. Being a trustee is a great experience working with like-minded people to make a difference and give something back to society.

  1. How important do you think the relationship between a charity’s chairman and chief executive?

There is no doubt the relationship between a charity’s chairman and chief executive is absolutely critical. It is the oil that keeps the charity’s wheels turning. A chief executive deals with a charity’s day-to-day running, while a chairman’s role is a strategic one. Both need to understand and respect each other’s role.  A good working relationship between the two allows a charity to flourish.

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