Over the past 2 years, we’ve sat with trustees and chairs to learn about their journey to becoming an effective trustee. We have rounded up some of our favourite answers to the question:

What qualities do you think are important for those in a trustee role?

Elaine Lilley

Trustee, The Edge Foundation

I think you must start by asking yourself three questions:

  1. Why do you want to be involved as a trustee?
  2. What can you bring to the role and how does that enable you to support the organisation?
  3. What can you realistically commit to, particularly in terms of time?

Being a trustee because it looks good on your CV isn’t enough — you need to care about the organisation and be committed

to helping it thrive.

I think you also need to have an understanding of what governance is — it’s an important and responsible role. Some trustee roles may need much more direct experience in governance, but all trustees need to understand what they are committing to.

I believe that a good trustee has objectivity — they provide strategic support, not hands-on operational support. Being in a position to take a step back, to see the bigger picture, to be able to ask the right questions at the right time in the right way — all of these are central to a trustee’s role.

A trustee also needs to have or develop a good understanding of the organisation and particularly get to know the CEO and the staff and how they work. That way the Board, the senior leadership team and the staff are all pulling together in the same direction, with a clear operational purpose as well as an eye on the wider environment and external issues.

Read Elaine's interview here

Ian Adams

Vice-Chair, Single Homeless Project | Trustee, Unite Foundation | Trustee, London Handel Festival

It’s important to have opportunities when joining a charity board to ask lots of questions – while remembering there are no right or wrong questions to bring up.

I think having a curious mind is essential; not being afraid to ask questions about how the charity is performing and serving the needs of its clients.

Teamwork is also critical, not only with regards to your working alongside other trustees but in supporting the executive

team who are accountable for the day-to-day running of the organisation.

Give as much time as you can to get to know the people who run the charity and deliver its services on the ground. That’s why I really enjoy visiting frontline services to see for myself the impact that a charity is having on the ground and to speak directly to frontline staff who, more than anyone, is the public face of a charity.

Above all else, I think it’s essential for trustees to share the values of the charity they are serving.

Read Ian's interview here

Síofra Healy

Vice-Chair, Association of Charitable Foundations | Trustee, Bryson Care

I think it’s important to be aligned personally with the values and purpose of the organisation where you are a trustee. As in any leadership position, knowledge and experience of a particular skill, and appropriate area of work or profession can also be important qualities.

Having worked in hospice care and business development for many years, I contribute to the Bryson Care strategy and governance. As an advocate and/or ambassador for others, whether that

is a cause, area, member, beneficiary or an issue, you also need to be willing and able to contribute to meetings, discussions and specific areas of work as a trustee.

Making decisions together and collectively is part of a trustee’s role, and the ability to see the bigger picture and think strategically are essential qualities.

Read Siofra's interview here

Henry Gregg

Trustee, Gingerbread

Ultimately, you have to be personally connected to the organisation and feel strongly about what it’s trying to achieve.

You also have to have the ability to listen and get your head around all the different facets of what an organisation does, from finances to campaigning to how their services work. And you have to apply your own experience to an organisation, you have to work as a team with other trustees to make sure the organisation is moving forward.

Watch Henry's interview here

Nazreen Visram

Lay Trustee, KCLSU

Trustees have to be open-minded with strong communication skills, diverse experiences, the ability to adapt to a different environment, stakeholder management, and good listening skills.

It can be a challenge to manage your time, between your day job, family life, etc. Ask those around you for support in how to manage your time effectively.

Read Nazreen's interview here

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