Focus: Finance and Governance - Trustee talk - Richard Lane, Guide Dogs for the Blind Association

I have been involved with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association on three levels - as a user, an employee and a trustee. My relationship with it began in 1992 when it became clear that my damaged retinas and other associated eye problems would leave me permanently blind. Two wonderful guide dogs, the late Norton and now Simpson, have taken care of my mobility ever since.

In 1999, after two years as the charity's media manager, I left to work at the medical magazine The Lancet, which is my current job. Eighteen months later, I returned to join Guide Dogs' board of trustees.

The 15-strong board, a third of whom are guide dog users, has a clear portfolio arrangement between trustees and management, which means that trustees' time and input is channelled constructively into areas in which they have experience and expertise. Although I have a background in PR and communications, my main portfolio is the performance of the core guide dog service.

This means I check that key issues and performance measures are being addressed. For guide dog services, this includes dog production targets, from the breeding of pups in-house through to the success rates of dogs in training, and analysing the time that clients spend waiting before training with a new dog.

The latter aspect is especially important, as it is seen as the litmus test for our existing and future clients.

As with all trustee work, respecting the fine line between governance and management is crucial. After four years as a Guide Dogs' trustee, I feel confident that I do not often cross this line, even though I can feel passionate about the issues involved.

From a personal perspective, it is gratifying to give time and energy back to the organisation that made me mobile again after sight loss.

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