Lynsey Kerr, a partner at law firm Lindsays, on the importance of trustees to Scotland’s third sector
They were there for the most vulnerable at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, some are now on the frontline supporting people through the cost of living crisis and so many more simply make our communities great places in which to live. Yes, Scotland’s charities are pretty special.
When it comes to dedication and determination to make a difference their teams of staff, volunteers and fundraisers are second to none. Events of the past few years have reinforced that fact. But none of that work would be possible without one group of volunteers - trustees. More people need to realise this, along with the tremendous opportunities that being a trustee offers.
This week is Trustees Week and it’s worth taking the chance to acknowledge the great work they do.
Put simply, they ensure the wheels turn. Good governance is at the heart of great charity work. Trustees ensure that governance is in place - from making sure that policies and procedures are fit for purpose, that the very best people are in key roles and that operations are financially sound.
It can sound daunting. But it shouldn’t be. For a relatively small time commitment, the rewards can be huge. I’ve been a trustee for a number of years and know how good the work can make you feel.
The key to success for any charity is ensuring it has the right mix of skills among its people, whether that be their professional background or personal attributes.
As we look towards tackling the triple-challenge of Covid-19’s aftermath, climate change and the cost of living crisis, we need to ensure all organisations are well placed to meet them.
Whether in digital transformation, social media, marketing, fundraising or governance, the right skills mix is needed around the table. Charities are not immune to the social changes taking place. This simply amplifies the need to have the right people.
I’m a lawyer and bring parts of my working life to the table. Many of my colleagues at Lindsays - with expertise in everything from property and employment, to legacies and governance - do likewise. Collectively, we sit on the boards of about 50 organisations throughout Scotland, covering everything from sport to social care.
Board recruitment is never easy, but a blend of youth and experience can be important.
I’m in my 30s and am one of - if not the - youngest faces around the table on both charity boards I sit on. That’s something which needs to change.
A little more youth could make a significant difference to so many charities in helping them plan for the future. We, of course, need to retain our older trustees too. Their experience and counsel is invaluable - often game-changing, in fact.
I’ve touched on the personal positives. Professionally too, being a trustee has great advantages. It allows you to develop skills while making new connections. As increasing numbers of businesses place greater focus on their corporate social responsibility, all of this may even add up to positive career development too.
I can assure you that you will see it as time you look forward to spending rather than a drain on your time.
Lynsey Kerr is a partner and lawyer at Lindsays and a charity trustee.