I’ve been involved with Aston-Mansfield for 15 years since I was first asked to join the board to help manage some investments. Over time, I’ve learnt more about a wider range of relevant topics in the sector that fall outside my professional skillset.
There are different elements to the role of Chair. I chair the trustee body – a group of people who come from a diverse range of backgrounds including a significant proportion of local residents. I also provide a link between the trustee body and the CEO with whom I meet with every month to talk about strategic decisions. There are a couple of specialist areas where the trustees have specific roles, including spending time working on the real estate portfolio so as to reduce the onus on management.
It’s incredibly rewarding to see how Aston-Mansfield makes a contribution to the lives of the people it serves. To see the work with children thrive, the feedback from the youth activities, and to see what’s possible to extract from the assets we’ve been endowed with is extremely rewarding, and rewarding in a completely different way from what I spend my time on in the rest of my life.
I think it’s a very good idea to get young people involved in charity governance. Aston-Mansfield has conducted skills audits and maintained a clear perspective on the skills of the trustee body, plugging any gaps we identify in the range of skills represented. We’re conscious that a broad spectrum of ages and backgrounds enriches our discussion and that’s been a goal we’ve been out to address and something we’ve made progress with.
One of the most important responsibilities of trustees is to properly exercise their fiduciary responsibility – that’s a priority of the highest order. In addition to this, other responsibilities that sit at the top of the list of priorities are ensuring that the management is competent and honest.
There are of course challenges. The economic environment makes the sectors work extraordinarily difficult – that’s the least original observation you’ll hear all year! The challenges for the trustee body flow directly from that, as they do in peer organisations across the country.
The fact that the economic position has stabilised is a help and there are signs that the public sector is being more discriminating about the kinds of cuts being made. It’s also encouraging that the corporate sector is increasingly conscious of its social responsibilities and increasingly determined to deliver on them and to be seen to be doing so.
There is also a very impressive calibre of young people who are prepared to carve out their careers in the sector and that’s a very promising sign. I’d thank these individuals for choosing the sector and encourage them to develop a durable skill set that will carry them forward. Look to work with colleagues who prioritise your training and development and seek out meritocratic organisations that will support and encourage you, and let you develop at a pace that fits your skills and commitment.