Want to give something back? Add social value and progress your career?
Why not think about joining a charity board.
Two years ago I had settled into a senior role, and was thinking about the ‘what next’. While starting to research options, an invitation to join the board of Raheli Trust came via my CEO.
Raheli Trust was set up in 2008, with the aim of providing financial support to access education for disadvantaged Tanzanian youth, in particular girls. I have a background in education including some global experience, and I’m passionate about gender equity, so the invitation felt like a good fit. From the first meeting I knew I had something to offer, but that I was also going to learn a great deal from the passionate women who had founded the trust.
On the surface, the commitment seems straightforward. Timewise, you commit to preparing for and attending a set of Trustee meetings annually, usually four. Raheli Trust also runs a sponsors meeting, where the donors get to hear about the impact of their funds in Tanzania. For my part, my professional experience immediately proved to be useful inputting on policy areas such as safeguarding.
However, in reality, your contribution feels so much more. As a member of a charity board you have a responsibility to contribute to the future direction of the organisation, and its continuity. At the same time, you need to ensure it stays true to its purpose, and adheres to guidelines. Your contribution needs to add value strategically and most importantly hold the vision of the organisation at its centre.
Shortly after joining Raheli Trust, an opportunity came up within my own workplace to join the board of its trading subsidiary Living Streets Services. Those meetings focus more on the commercial offer and social value of products. As a result totally different topics are discussed, but the same principles of my role on the board apply.
Charity boards are often made up of a diverse group of individuals, and it is an honour to be part of them. If the organisation has been proactive in bringing a range of skills to the board, you may find yourself working alongside talent from a variety of sectors. There could be retirees, current professionals and possibly some individuals who have been recognised for their contributions to society.
From when I first considered joining a board to now, I have learnt a great deal. My appreciation of the contributions trustees make is greatly increased. However, it’s important to say it isn’t always plain sailing. Things don’t always go to plan. You need to be able to ask the tough questions, and to take part in difficult decisions. If you are ready to do that, then applying to join a charity board can be a really rewarding volunteer experience.