Regulation with Rosie: Trustees

The Charity Commission's Rosie Chapman on the importance of trustees.

Whether they've hailed it as the key to civic identity or a rite of passage for the UK's school-leavers, politicians remain committed to raising the profile of volunteering.

But I wonder whether trustees are making as much as they could of the ongoing opportunities offered by this all-party crusade. The messages from Westminster cover every volunteering option going, yet there's rarely any mention of trustees.

How many trustees actually see themselves as volunteers? Trustees are many things - financial wizards, chairs, keen strategists - but they are also volunteers.

Money is being found for a range of volunteering initiatives, and now is the time for trustee organisations to promote trusteeship.

There are time-limited initiatives such as Get on Board, which encourage people to think about becoming trustees. We at the Charity Commission promote and further these. They are important because they focus on the diversity trustee boards need. But these schemes are, by their nature, a series of one-offs that only happen annually, if we're lucky.

The wider volunteer agenda, by contrast, is constant. Some of it, such as the idea of compulsory volunteering, may not be to everyone's liking, but it creates a consistent dialogue that can be influenced. Getting the importance of trusteeship recognised whenever volunteering is discussed is an important step in raising the profile of the role and ensuring trustees' views are sought when public policy on volunteering is developed.

By recognising that governing charities is another form of volunteering, and making sure the Government recognises this too, charity trustees can help make trusteeship an intrinsic part of the wider volunteering agenda.

- Rosie Chapman is executive director of policy and effectiveness at the commission.

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