Reflections of a young trustee

Posted on the 4th April 2018

This year marks my seventh year as a trustee of a grant-making trust.

Since its establishment in 1963, the Hilden Charitable Fund has been supporting unpopular causes, ie those unlikely to raise funds from public subscription.

Our current priorities are: asylum seekers and refugees, homelessness, community-based initiatives for getting young people into work, penal affairs and international development.

I enjoy being a trustee and working with the other members of the board. I have learned much about charity governance, leadership and accounts and endowment management, all of which have helped me in my day job.

Making a difference

But has my participation made a difference? Afterall, the role of a trustee is to ensure the charity is carrying out its purpose. I would like to think we are doing our best.

I feel as one of the trustees who is not related to the rest of the board I bring a different perspective, which has been valued by other board members. I have used my employment experience in the international development sector to advise particularly on our overseas portfolio. Additionally, having worked at the trust I understand the needs of the trust’s staff team.

Has my involvement revolutionised the way the trust works? Perhaps not – since transformation is a long-evolving process – although I do believe changes have taken place owing to my subtle advocacy.

Following my monitoring visit to Uganda and Tanzania in 2014 on behalf of the trust, I wrote a briefing with recommendations on improving our overseas funding. The board considered these recommendations at length and we are looking at our approach further this year.

I was part of the working group looking at improving the diversity of our board and was able to affect the process of recruiting new trustees. This was the first time we recruited trustees through an open application – a big step for a small organisation!

Young people are able to contribute at the highest level of decision-making and effect change yet studies show just 2.5% of charity trustees in UK are aged under 30.

Another change has been to increase the number of meetings in the year, with more in the evening to accommodate availability. Separate meetings to discuss grants and finance enable the board to be more active in ensuring our funds are being managed in line with our purpose and fiduciary duty.

Less successful has been my idea of corresponding trustees joining meetings on Skype, with no uptake thus far! The website could do with sprucing up to increase usability, I remember thinking that when I joined. This is something we are currently working on.

As a trustee, I believe I have been able to influence ideas beyond the board to the wider sector. Diversity is not really talked about; I do hope I have played a role in bringing this onto the agenda through my co-facilitation of a breakout session at the Association of Charitable Foundations conference in 2014 and a written piece in the Trust and Foundation News in 2016.  I am still involved in pushing that change.

Young people are able to contribute at the highest level of decision-making and effect change, yet studies show just 2.5% of charity trustees in UK are aged under 30. The last six years have been a truly wonderful experience and a worthwhile endeavour, I would encourage more inclusive board membership.

Samia Khatun

Samia has been a trustee of the Hilden Charitable Fund since January 2012.

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