More people should consider becoming a trustee to support local charities with their skills, according to a former chief executive who has volunteered his time.
Amyn Fazal, one of six trustees overseeing Prism Arts in Carlisle, describes the role as being a critical friend.
And it’s not just something to do after retirement – it can help improve your working life.
“I think if you do it when you are working it makes you better at your job because you bring a new perspective to your work,” said Mr Fazal.
Prism Arts, which has worked with people with disabilities for more than 30 years, is looking for more people to join as trustees.
Mr Fazal says that although the position is unpaid it does carry with it duties and responsibilities.
“It has changed over time from being a kind of rubber stamp, turning up for a cup of coffee, spending an hour having a nice chat and going home.
“That rigour of directorial trustee responsibilities has slowly been increasing so that it encompasses not just corporate businesses but non-profit-making organisations.
“Even though it’s a volunteer role, the Charities Commission, the regulator, does expect people to do a decent job.”
Mr Fazal became a trustee in 2017 after retiring as chief executive of Penrith Building Society. He had dealt with Prism through his work, had an interest in the arts and saw it as a way of giving back to the community.
The role, he says, is many-fold: overseeing the work of the charity; helping the senior team set the organisation’s vision; providing guidance; supporting but also challenging in board meetings; and acting as an ambassador for Prism in the community.
He said: “Your job as a trustee is not to actually run the charity. It’s really to provide guidance when needed.
“So you are there when any queries come up and somebody needs a bit of help.
“It’s quite a subtle role, because you don’t want to be saying every day, oh, I’d do it this way. But it is to look and certainly be a critical friend if you like.”
Prism is particularly looking for people with experience in fundraising, community engagement initiatives and charity finances, including the role of treasurer, and someone with lived experience of disability.
But it is happy to hear from anyone interested in becoming a trustee.
Creative and strategic director Catherine Coulthard said: “We are looking for trustees to help us drive Prism Arts into a new and exciting chapter.
“After a period of review we have developed a really clear vision for our charity.
“We want to develop a fully integrated organisation, which will see our artists gain skills and access opportunities to have their work appreciated and enjoyed by local, national and worldwide audiences.
“If you are interested in helping us do this by joining our board of trustees, please get in touch.”
Louise Telford, who has been a trustee for two years, came with a voluntary/charity sector background. Meetings, she says, are arranged for those like her who work full-time and Prism is keen on a diverse range of members.
“We can teach people how to be a trustee. But their heart needs to be in the right place and they need to be doing it for the right reasons.
“I was a bit worried because I’d never been a trustee before – what skills have I got that they want? They really helped me and brought me on board.”
She added: “We would like keen people who have got a diverse range of skills. They don’t necessarily have to know how to sit on a board.
“In days gone by it would be grey men in suits of a particular age who all went to the golf course.
“That’s not what it is now. We have a range of different skills and experiences. It is a volunteering role but you have to put your time into it.”
- If you are interested in becoming a trustee visit the Prism Arts website.
Alternatively, email email@example.com or call 01228 587691.