I feel honoured to be part of the organisation, by Flóra Raffai. Trustees’ Week 2021.

Tell us a little about yourself and your work and/or volunteering experience.

My name is Flóra Raffai and I have spent my career leading charities and non-profits, predominantly in the health and education sectors. Alongside work, I have volunteered as a mentor for small rare disease charities and I am currently working towards becoming an accredited transformational coach. I am driven by my passion to help people live their best possible lives and to make the future a brighter place.

Why did you become a trustee of CCVS?

I became a trustee of CCVS three years ago, in November 2018. At the time, I was the Chief Executive of a local charity that was a member of CCVS. I had greatly benefited from the membership, having attended useful training events and networking sessions. Working at a small charity, it can be difficult to know where to get information and who to turn to when you are stuck. CCVS provides that trusted, supportive guidance you need so that you can do your best in working with your community. When I heard that CCVS was looking to recruit new trustees, I jumped at the opportunity to give back to the organisation that had given me and others like me so much.

What does your role as a trustee entail?

Along with my fellow trustees, it is my role to oversee the charity’s management, administration, and strategy. The board of trustees has ultimate responsibility for the charity, to make sure it fulfils its aims and creates benefits for our community. From a practical point of view, this entails attending our quarterly trustee meetings to review the charity’s strategic and financial position, working closely with CCVS’s excellent CEO Mark Freeman to give advice on new initiatives and funding bids, and taking on additional responsibilities to support the team when needed. At the moment, I am also coaching two members of the lovely CCVS team.

What do you most enjoy about the role?

I most enjoy seeing the impact of CCVS’s work on the Cambridgeshire community and voluntary sector. I love reading our annual report, which summarises all the work done across the year to support hundreds of small groups and charities. I feel honoured to be part of the organisation and play a small part in making sure the charity continues to act as a multiplier for the community.

What would you say to anyone thinking about becoming a Trustee, particularly if they are unsure whether it is a role they could undertake? What do they need to consider?

The most important thing to consider before you become a trustee is whether you have enough time available to do a good job. A trustee role comes with legal responsibilities, so you want to make sure you have enough time to review papers, attend the board meetings, and respond to support requests. Talk to the charity to find out what time commitment they are expecting and when those time commitments take place (e.g. during the workday or outside working hours). Be honest with yourself and the charity about what you can take on.

I would highly recommend becoming a trustee, especially of a small local charity. If you have benefited from a charity’s services and support, then you have valuable lived experience that can be hugely beneficial to the charity’s board of trustees. If you have a background in finances, legal, people management, strategy, communications, service delivery, all of these skills can enhance a board of trustees and expand the knowledge within the team. If you have passion for the cause and time to help out, then you can make a real difference to a small team who need more hands on deck.

Time to give back, by Nicki Glen. Trustees’ Week 2021.

I have lived in Cambridgeshire for over 30 years and work with local, UK and international companies which have the health and welfare of people and animals as their core principles. Before becoming a charity trustee, I volunteered on an ad hoc basis for like-minded groups. Taking on a trustee role formalised the support I gave to various charities and showed me that I wanted to contribute on a more solid basis, using my career skills to benefit others.

It was time to give back: I wanted to be involved in a local charity. The Cambridge Council for Voluntary Service (CCVS) offered the perfect opportunity to do this, educating and supporting small and evolving charities in the area.

I am also a trustee for StreetVet. The charity’s team take their experience out to people living on the streets,  delivering veterinary care and support to them and to their pets, thus benefiting their combined well-being.

Becoming a trustee is a relevantly straightforward process so long as one realises the responsibilities this entails. It is important to engage fully in the charities’ activities and to understand the importance of decision-making and support for the team running the day-to-day work.

As a trustee for CCVS, I have gained greater insights as to the support needed in my locality and how I could use my skills in strategy, decision making and communications to support the CCVS team. I really enjoy the engagement I have with them. During the pandemic, the role of trustee presented no problems as the meetings are virtual  and we have continued as before. However, it is lovely to meet face to face as this brings a different dimension to our meetings.

CCVS are very successful in delivering education and support to other charities and members. We have made significant changes in the way we deliver this support. This has proved invaluable during the pandemic..

If you are considering becoming a trustee, it is important to think about the time commitment, responsibilities and legal implications involved. Overall, it is a very fulfilling volunteer role.

The importance of having an inclusive and representative board of Trustees, by Ellie Lee. Trustees’ Week 2021.

Something I have learned working with people with additional needs, mental and physical health issues, and those who are facing isolation and hardship, is that they are the real experts of their condition. They are resourceful and use everyday creativity and innovation to manage and overcome their difficulties.

They might not be aware of their potential and finding the right support often means they are finally able to explore possibilities they could not see before. Once they see that, they are capable of really making a change, for themselves and for others too, involving people with similar experiences on their journey.

We charity workers, are people who have dedicated our professional lives in helping others, giving them the support, but also the choice and the trust that they need most. We believe in their abilities to rise above challenges, because otherwise we would not do what we do.

Every day I see the impact of hard work with clients. I see them embracing a journey which improves the quality of their lives, fights isolation and loneliness, improves skills. I feel proud. Having somebody fighting their corner, the battle is not as bad with an ally. I also see that one of the fruits of that work is for clients to want to give back in a way they received help. They want to volunteer, to be an active part of the community they belong to. They want to use the strength that you helped them to build, to help others. And I personally believe that we should encourage them to take that path as far as they can, because they can really make a difference.

Many groups already understand how having people with lived experience of the issues their clients face, on the board of the trustees, is an incredibly positive asset for the organisation. They can deeply understand the needs of the people the charity wants to help, assessing how things are done from their perspective, but also appreciating the work that everyone is doing behind the scenes. Most importantly, they can bring a creative, innovative, problem solving attitude that is a powerful features for a trustee. They will be the advocates, the champions and the example to look at for your service users.

Undertaking such a role can be incredibly rewarding, but also challenging. The board of trustees and staff should value and recognise the unique knowledge that comes with lived experience. This, although different from professional knowhow other board members might have, is just as important. It will be a sustainable and efficient way to make sure the group is achieving the best possible results, with a board of trustees that really can represent the heart and soul of the group.

This week is Trustees week and now more than ever I would like to thank all those who are giving their time and sharing the knowledge and skills of their lived experience in Trustee roles in our groups. I would like to encourage those who have not yet recruited trustees who can really empathise with their clients, to consider the option.

Happy trustees week everyone!