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Thoughts on being a Trustee

5th November 2020

Elsie Lyons – October 2020

I’ve only been a Trustee of Inclusion Barnet since June 2020, so I have a lot to learn about how the organisation works.  Why did I agree to be a Trustee?  Well, I finally retired from Barnet Voice for Mental Health at the beginning of 2017 and thought I’d left behind any desire to still be involved – but some things tug at the heartstrings! Barnet Voice is now under the umbrella of Inclusion Barnet and, despite having declined once, when CEO Caroline Collier again asked me to be on the Board in May, the time seemed right. Perhaps because it was obvious that the pandemic would have a big knock-on effect on mental health, plus all the other things that Inclusion Barnet does to support those who society has already disabled.

Having been asked to write down my thoughts on being a Trustee of Inclusion Barnet, I went back to the sheet that I had sent out to those wishing to be on the Board of Barnet Voice. What a lot we were asking. There were ten main duties! In all honesty, though, we never expected a Board member to be able to fulfil every part of the role to the letter. Some trustees were good at overseeing duties such as the administration of the organisation; others at keeping an eye on the finances; others a more strategic overview. Some trustees found those tasks beyond them, but the one role that every member on the Board did in their own individual way, and which was essential to them being on the Board, was to safeguard the values of the organisation. The organisation mattered to them, and that has to underpin everything. Yes, when the CEO is looking for some guidance on new initiatives or difficult decisions it is important to have read the papers! This helps to take part in the discussion so that you bring your own particular spin to the decision-making process.

I speak from experience when I say that it can be a lonely role heading up a charity. There are all the issues surrounding project delivery, the intricacies of staffing issues, and endlessly seeking new funding streams.  However, with a group of people on the Board who truly take their role as legal guardians seriously, who you know care about the purpose of the organisation, who are there to support and when necessary, advise you in that role – it makes its success much more likely. 

So, I wanted to bring my skills to the table, which, when I founded Barnet Voice, mainly consisted of – bringing up a family of five, some admin and basic bookkeeping skills and yes, my first-hand experience of having mental health issues. I developed other skills along the way, but it was the friendship and support of my Board that really helped.  If you care about what a particular charity does, that’s the first step towards applying to be on its Board of Trustees.

Inspired by Elsie’s story? Apply to become a Trustee with Inclusion Barnet.

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