A Place on the Board: Ben Osborn of Young Epilepsy

Osborn joined the charity because of a personal connection with the cause

Ben Osborn
Ben Osborn

Six years ago, Ben Osborn's son was diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy. A year and a half after that, Osborn saw a newspaper advert for a trustee position at the charity Young Epilepsy.

"After I'd lived for 18 months with a child who has epilepsy and seen first-hand the daily struggles of accessing healthcare, education and social support, the advert inspired me to get in touch," he says. "I found out the board was looking for expertise about healthcare and I thought I'd be a good fit, both as a parent and as someone who works for the pharmaceutical company Pfizer."

He believes trustees don't necessarily have to have an interest in the cause area, although for him it helps. "Of the 13 or so board members, I am the only one with a personal connection," he says. He went into the role with an open mind, he says: "Coming from the private sector, I didn't want to make assumptions about how a charity operates."

Osborn had not been a trustee before, although he had some experience of volunteering through his firm. Pfizer manufactures medication to treat epilepsy, so Osborn says he needed to get an initial agreement with his line manager to ensure there was no conflict of interest.

Beyond that, he says, it is up to him to manage time. "I do most charity work in the evenings and at weekends," he says.

"I know that I can't do more than this, because I have a young family. You need to be clear about how much time commitment you can make."

Trustees should not try to be all things to all people, he advises. "I could get involved with the charity's finances, but the finance experts on the board are better at that sort of thing," he says. "It's important to be clear about where your skills lie and play to those."

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