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Feel confident in your role as a charity trustee

Written by: Lynn Cadman
Published on: 10 Dec 2018

January saw the launch of the new Volunteering Community – and with it ICAEW’s new online Trustee Training Modules.  We caught up with co-author of the modules, Lynn Cadman, to find out more about this online training and why she wanted to be involved in the project.

I’ve been a charity trustee for a few years now.  It is incredibly rewarding, giving you the opportunity to enhance your skills and explore new environments – at the same time as making the world better for others.  But it can also be challenging, bringing with it important obligations.

Even as a governance professional, I’ve sometimes worried about whether I’m doing a good job and thinking about all the things I should be.  This includes applying my expertise in practice, in a way that’s appropriate to the specific context of my charity, and in situations that I haven’t encountered previously.  There’s lots of brilliant guidance available to trustees but it can be difficult to find what you’re looking for, or to pinpoint what is really relevant for you and your organisation.

So when the opportunity arose to co-write an online trustee training course with ICAEW I jumped at the chance! 

As well as a writer’s group of three (Gillian McKay, ICAEW head of Charity and Volunteering, Christel Hawkins and me) we also worked alongside a steering group of experts from the charity sector, including the Charity Commission, NCVO, the Honorary Treasurer’s Forum and Rosie Chapman (Chair of the Charity Governance Code steering group) to name a few.  Some of those involved were former colleagues of mine from the Charity Commission so it was great to work with them again, as well as working alongside others that I hadn’t met before.

Supporting trustees to help their charities suceed

The aim of the course is to help existing trustees – as well as those thinking of becoming a trustee – to feel confident that they understand their role and responsibilities, to see how they can make an impact, and to help them (and the charities they lead) to succeed. 

The online training course consists of six modules covering: legal responsibilities, financial responsibilities, managing people, managing risk, managing board dynamics, and planning for success (which covers both strategic planning and measuring impact).  

They summarise key aspects of running a charity and draw out the trustees’ place in bringing leadership to these areas. The modules are interactive with a series of learning screens, which include quizzes, comment boxes, scenarios and case studies, to help embed what you’re learning.  

Because the course is modular, you can fit your learning around other commitments and can also dip back into a topic if you need a quick refresher after you’ve completed the course.  It’s not compulsory, but you also have the option to complete a short assessment at the end to receive a certificate.

Training for trustees working in charities of all sizes

One of the challenges we had when writing the course is that the role of a trustee can look different from one charity to another: the time commitment and nature of trustees’ involvement will vary based on factors such as the size of the charity, the resources available (eg. staff), the stage it’s at, and the mix of skills and experience around the board table.

So for each of the six modules, we kept coming back to the question: “what are the trustees’ responsibilities here?”    

Understanding what is expected of you is the first step in demonstrating you’ve fulfilled your responsibilities.  A trustee may act in different capacities in their charity, so the focus of the modules helps highlight the trustees’ role as distinct, for example, from voluntary day to day management.

ICAEW Volunteering Community

One of the key things I love about the training modules is that they are accessible to even the smallest charities.  The training modules are available to all members of ICAEW’s Volunteering Community (including non-ICAEW members and those outside of the accountancy profession) so the only cost is the modest annual subscription.  As well as access to the modules, members of the Volunteering Community are given professional liability insurance for all UK volunteering activities and regular news and updates about the sector. So it really is amazing value for money!

If you’re a trustee, my aspiration is that the training modules will help you see what questions to ask and ensure you have a framework in place to support your teams to achieve.  And if you’re contemplating trusteeship, that they will give you the confidence to step into the role, equipped to succeed.   

Join the ICAEW Volunteering Community (cost from £30 p.a.) to access the Trustee Training modules. If you are attending the NCVO Annual Conference on 1 April come by the ICAEW Volunteers stand to speak to us about the ICAEW Volunteers website and the trustee training modules.