Which organisation are you a trustee for?
I am a trustee and the treasurer of Handicap International UK (HI UK). Handicap International is an independent aid organisation working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work alongside disabled and vulnerable people in over 60 countries worldwide.
How did you become a trustee with HI UK?
I had previously been involved with HI UK through a friend of mine and used to do bits of ad hoc pro bono advisory. Eventually there happened to be an opening on the board and joining as a trustee seemed to be a logical progression. I strongly believe that the organisation is doing great work, and feel that most effective way for me to contribute is through this role. Given my background in strategy and corporate finance, the role of Treasurer seemed a natural one.
What do your responsibilities involve?
Generally, as a trustee, the main responsibility is one of oversight – trustees are responsible for the general control and management of the administration of a charity. What is really interesting at Handicap is that the organisation is embarking into a change journey which starts with the development of a new strategy. Beyond the end of the current strategic plan, one of the key drivers is the decision a few months ago from one of the founders – Jean-Baptiste Richardier to hand over his managing director position to Manuel Patrouillard who comes from McKinsey & Co, the strategy consulting firm.
Such transition is always a great opportunity to reinvent yourself and I am looking forward to a debate on the new strategic direction of the organisation and in particular the role of the UK entity within the federation.
In addition, as Treasurer, I obviously have particular responsibilities for overseeing the finances and ensuring that we are using our money in a way that maximises the impact of HI UK’s work while minimising risks.
What have you found challenging and rewarding about the role?
What’s been most rewarding has been being able to lend a hand in determining the future direction of the charity, and seeing vital advances being made that the board has directly contributed towards. The most challenging aspect is getting the balance of the role right – not getting too involved so as to lose the strategic oversight that a trustee can offer, but also being sufficiently familiar with HI UK’s daily operations to be able to make a tangible difference to how the charity works.
Why do you think it is important for charities to have a board of trustees?
Trustees can bring a wide range of skills and experiences that might not otherwise be available to charities. In addition, they also often bring their own extensive networks that can be of great use, connecting them other talented individuals that can contribute to the charity’s work, or even creating opportunities for funding. It is often the case that trustees can be most beneficial in this informal aspect of the role, as ambassadors for the charity and strong advocates.
What type of people do you think should seek to become trustees?
As I said above, trustees are there to bring a diverse range of skills and experiences, and so I don’t think that there’s a ‘type’ of person who should be a trustee. If you’re passionate about a particular cause and think that you’ve got something to add to a board, then you should definitely apply! That being said, although being a trustee can be incredibly rewarding, people shouldn’t seek to become a trustee to cross something off a list – the desire to become a trustee should come from a strong affiliation to the charity in question and a sincere willingness to help advance their cause. It would also be great to see a rise in the number of young trustees given that the average age for a trustee in England and Wales is 57. Whilst wisdom can come with experience, having beneficiary or ex-beneficiary trustees can bring a great dynamism to the board and adds the all-important beneficiary perspective.