Focus: Finance and Governance - Trustee talk - Lisa Roberts, BackCare

I have been a trustee for 11 years, but I first got involved with the charity in 1990 through my local branch in Southampton. I'm a physiotherapist and we run evening hydrotherapy sessions. This led to speaking at branch meetings and then the national conference, after which I was asked by the chairman if I would like to join the board.

When I first started, it was made very clear that the trustees would not be personally liable if there were any financial difficulties with the charity - provided, of course, that there had been no misappropriation of funds. So from the beginning any worries about the responsibilities we were taking on were dispelled.

Even if it were possible for charity trustees to be paid, I would rather the money went back into the alleviation of back pain. The biggest challenge we face as trustees is trying to get funding for back pain research, because it isn't usually life-threatening.

BackCare trustees are closely involved in financial planning. We have an executive committee that meets between board sessions, and the trustees on that committee help with the day-to-day running of the charity. They are there to support the chief executive. The board is quite a strategic group in general, though - we meet four times a year and finance is always high on the agenda.

Balancing my work as a trustee with my job isn't a problem, because four meetings a year isn't too onerous. I am fortunate because I am employed by the local hospital and university, both of which are very supportive.

The university, in particular, encourages people to get involved in 'scholarly activities', such as working with health charities.

It was more difficult when I worked on the board's education committee, however. That could take up to 20 hours a week. I was writing leaflets and publications that BackCare sells, and we were also setting up a product review panel.

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