To mark Trustee Week, held 4-8 November, we have a special blog post from Peter Smyth, Director of Public Affairs and Deputy Managing Director at communication company, Indigo. Peter is one of the newest trustees for CHAS and has made invaluable contributions already. Read his blog post to find out more about his experience so far.
It's safe to say that in 2018 when I was asked to consider throwing my hat into the ring to become a Trustee at CHAS, it didn’t take me long to say a big, loud 'yes'.
This was an organisation that I’d come to know and admire in recent years, having worked with CHAS on a variety of communications and public affairs projects. I had come to appreciate that what they do for children with life-limiting conditions – and their families – is absolutely transformative, inspiring and completely necessary for people in the most vulnerable circumstances across Scotland.
Put simply, CHAS and its wonderfully inspiring people had managed to get under my skin in a way that meant volunteering my time to support them felt right. Thankfully, I must have said something sensible during the application process and was delighted to accept a place on the Board late last year. I’ve never had a reason since to regret that decision.
In part that’s a credit to my fellow trustees, who as well as being vastly experienced in their own professional fields, have been exceptionally welcoming to the newbie among them. Each has a unique perspective derived from success in their respective fields, meaning the support and scrutiny that CHAS needs to grow and thrive is always made available to the Senior Leadership Team.
It’s worth noting that being a Trustee at any well-run charity takes time and commitment. It is certainly helpful that we have a Chairman who is expert at getting to the essentials, so meetings aren’t overly long and never feel inessential, because there’s so much to cover.
All of my fellow board members have busy day jobs and our meetings are organised to accommodate diaries as much as possible. Like me, they are all grateful for the flexibility offered by employers who recognise that being a Trustee can be worthwhile – not just because of the support provided for the charity but also because it allows them to learn and grow as an individual.
I sit on CHAS’s Corporate Governance & Risk Committee as well as the main board, and these tend to happen concurrently so that we get as much business done as possible while Trustees are together. I suppose if there’s any downside to such meetings it can be the prospect of wading through hundreds of pages of detailed reports beforehand, so that we have the information needed to scrutinise a myriad of programmes, services, policies and financial reports. Yet CHAS’s senior leadership and its absolutely brilliant Executive Support Team do a brilliant job keeping us briefed with the information we need to understand the organisation from end to end.
At the end of the day the reason we're there is to support them and hopefully to add some additional value and perspectives to the vital work that they do. Sometimes we’re also there as a sounding board for new ideas and it’s particularly exciting to see nascent projects move from the drawing board to become full services that help children and young people. It is a privilege to have some strategic input into that work and a responsibility that each of CHAS’s Trustees takes hugely seriously.
If I was to offer any advice to people considering donating their time as a charity Trustee it would be simply to find a cause you care about and say 'yes' as much as possible when you’re asked to get stuck in with support. It’s inevitable that you’ll learn new things, meet great people and have a rewarding experience. There is no shortage of great causes that need your help so if one comes calling, I’d urge you to give it a go.
Peter Smyth is Director of Public Affairs and Deputy Managing Director at communications company, Indigo.