‘Never again!’ was the response I got from someone who came to my stand at the NEC when I asked him if he was – or was thinking of becoming – a trustee. He was referring to his time as a trustee which had been calamitous apparently. He was a bit reluctant to go into details but I think it was to do with tensions between the trustees with whom he eventually fell out and left the charity.
The tensions usually arise between the trustees and the managers (or CEX) rather than between trustees themselves so this sounded a little unusual. If I was to guess, it seemed as though some wanted to expand and others were less keen which led to some kind of split. If this kind of tension flares up at a meeting then it can be quite difficult to deal with, people are just not prepared. But if it is a longer standing difference, then action needs to be taken. One way is to bring in someone from outside and spend time going through the pros and cons of change or expansion.
I spend time in the book discussing this issue but mainly the effects these decisions have on staff and volunteers. They can become unnerved by the topic and worry that their job or role as volunteer will be under threat by the change. Expansion may be desirable or even necessary but it can bring problems. Managers may not be up to being responsible for more staff, cash and finances need to be managed carefully and there is a risk that size can introduce a sense of remoteness. Instead of being able to pop in and speak to someone, appointments have to be made which can make things seem that bit more formal.
Needless to say, he didn’t want to buy my book!
How to be a Successful Trustee. Riverside