At Work: Law and Governance - Trustee talk - The advantages of lengthy courtship

Nathalie Thomas interviews Andy Bush of the learning disabilities charity United Response.

I was appointed a trustee of United Response in July after an eight-month application process.

This is the first time I have been a trustee. I was really keen to get involved in the charity sector as a trustee - but, ironically, I think charities don't consider making many people trustees until they are over a certain age. They tend to go and find someone who is retired. There are many benefits to be gained from having people on the board who are still involved in the industry in which you want expertise.

I originally responded to an advert that listed the skills United Response was looking for on its board. One of these was fundraising, which is where my background lies.

Over the next eight months, I met the chief executive, the managing director, some of the other board members and some of the regional directors and staff, so it was quite a lengthy process. I also spent time with some of United Response's beneficiaries, who interviewed me.

It was more rigorous than any application I have had for a paid job, but it was really beneficial for me - and also, I think, for the charity.

We both knew that we were making the right decision.

When I met the beneficiaries, I had a two-hour session with five of them.

They had a broad range of questions for me, on subjects ranging from the charity's mission to what I did in my spare time.

That was good, and I think United Response is considering introducing an 'adopt a trustee' programme to try to give the beneficiaries more opportunities to get closer to the trustees. It would also be beneficial for us - I like to get involved at a practical level as well as doing the paperwork.

In terms of training, I specifically asked for a mini-tour of the charity to try to get an idea of some of the issues surrounding the services.

I also had some formal training: I spent time with the finance director to look at the legal and financial responsibilities of the role. I met different members of the senior management team to discuss topics such as health and safety and Criminal Records Bureau checks.

I felt very prepared when I went to the first board meeting. I received documentation from previous meetings in advance, as well as a pack for the board meeting I was attending. This meant I had a good idea of what the longer-term picture was.

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