Keith Doble became involved with Norsaca, the largest specialist autism charity in the East Midlands, after his son, who had been diagnosed with autism, went to one of the schools run by the charity Sutherland House School in Nottingham. Doble joined the school's management committee and, through this role, heard about a trustee vacancy on the charity's board.
"I told Norsaca I would take on the role only if I was made chairman," he says. "At the time the board had a lot of expertise, but I felt it needed to be more commercial - not cut-throat, just a bit sharper."
He brought in a more business-oriented approach and, he says, the charity has tripled its turnover in his time with it. It now employs finance directors and has an integrated computer system.
"I try to maintain a balance between trustees with education or care skills and knowledge, and those with business leanings," he says. "In the past we tended to have more of the former, because many were parents of children with autism."
Doble worked in engineering as a project manager for oil companies. "Running a charity is similar to building a gas plant," he says. "There's a bottom line and a budget you can't exceed, but one should also avoid underspend."
The charity has just been through a restructure and has appointed a chief executive for the first time. "We have been a generous employer with pensions and sickness benefits, but regrettably these are no longer affordable," he says.
Doble is also a trustee at a charitable trust that runs a local academy. He says that lessons learned in one environment can be put into practice in another. "You should be a trustee only if you really want to contribute to a charity," he says. "The days of sitting in a meeting and knitting are long gone."