Experience Corps cuts trustees

The Experience Corps has cut its trustee board from 13 to eight members and is looking at diversifying into helping its volunteers get permanent paid jobs.

Chief executive Maggie Semple has drawn up a series of options to develop the organisation when the initial £20m Home Office grant that it received to establish a programme to encourage the over-50s into volunteering expires in 2004.

The Corps decided to reduce the size of its board following concerns that some trustees who were also involved with other volunteering bodies, such as Community Service Volunteers' executive director Elisabeth Hoodless, may have a conflict of interests (Third Sector, 10 September).

Two board members have now resigned and three have reached the end of their agreed tenure. The board has decided not to replace the outgoing trustees so as to minimise conflicts of interest and make the board more efficient.

"A resolution has been passed to reduce the size of the board, and some members have stepped down to lessen the possibility of trustees experiencing a conflict of interests," said Semple.

Outgoing trustees include Hoodless; Peter Davies, deputy chief executive of Business in the Community; Gordon Lishman, director-general at Age Concern; Stuart Etherington, chief executive at NCVO; and former chief medical officer Kenneth Calman.

The streamlined board is now looking at new directions for the organisation to take when its government funding runs out in March 2004. The Corps is currently entirely funded by the Home Office, and has already announced that it plans to start competing with charities for government contracts in 2004 to guarantee the future of the organisation. Now it is considering diversifying beyond volunteering and forming new partnerships.

"We are considering all the opportunities open to us, which means continuing to work in the voluntary sector, but also looking to other areas," said Semple.

"I have already drawn together a new business team to look at the options for 2004, including working with the public and private sector - early indications suggest that there is interest."

One option is a recruitment service, to help Corps volunteers get into paid employment. "A lot of our members are interested in learning new skills and doing paid work - that is one route we could follow," said Semple.

It is understood that the original board was not given the option of deciding whether the Corps should fold or continue.

"There are many initiatives in the sector, and I felt that the best plan would have been to build a legacy and integrate the experience of the Corps into the sector, rather than keep it as a separate initiative," said outgoing trustee Davies.

See Newsmaker, p14.

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