Focus: Finance and Governance - Trustee talk - Richard Chapman, Epilepsy Action

I have been on the council, or trustee board, of Epilepsy Action for almost 20 years.

The induction I received when I started was minimal, but things have changed greatly over the years. Now all new council members receive a comprehensive pack of information concerning their roles, the policy framework of the organisation and the working practices. New trustees also have the opportunity to talk to the chairman and the chief executive before taking up their posts.

However, induction is only one part of what we do to make sure members of the trustee board have the skills they need to do the job properly.

We set aside one day a year specifically for training.

We are also just about to enter the fifth year of an appraisal process.

This is a means by which we can identify areas where there are perceived shortcomings, and it helps to indicate what we might need to focus our training day on. At the moment, we are also in the process of putting together a personalised role description for each council member.

The appraisal is a yearly exercise for which we use documentation modelled on materials produced by the NCVO. Each council member is given a questionnaire that asks about a number of areas to do with the council's and the charity's work. They are asked to rate each one before returning the questionnaire to the vice-chairman, who later produces a report that pulls together and summarises the responses.

There's a section at the back of the questionnaire that relates to how trustees think they are doing as individuals. That section is voluntary but this year we are going to encourage people to fill it out.

We are trying to progress so that we can learn more about ourselves and improve our individual development so that we can be more effective in future.

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