I have been a trustee at the Stroke Association for two years. I got involved as a stroke survivor, which perhaps makes me slightly different from other charity trustees. I used the association as a source of information and support. There seemed to be a lot of publicity around tackling cancer and other health issues, and I wanted strokes to have a higher profile.
When I first became a trustee, I had an induction at which all the new trustees met the various heads of department, who explained what each department did, what the organisation was about and the challenges it faced. I was also sent the Charity Commission's guidance for trustees, and I regularly receive information about external training courses I can sign up for.
The council, which is what we call the board of trustees, meets about six times a year, but trustees also work in sub-committees and there is an executive committee too. We have a large council of 25 trustees, within which people are elected to the executive committee. Executive committee members are mostly chairs of the various sub-committees - they report back to the council and the full council makes the decisions.
We find this structure works well because at the full council meetings we have time to properly debate policy without the need to plough through lots of different papers.
Trustees can also get involved in a user-involvement working party that was set up by the trustees to ensure service users are able to participate in all aspects of the organisation.
The Stroke Association is a national body that is divided into regions for service delivery. One or two trustees are in charge of each region, which we feel promotes a greater understanding between staff in those regions and the trustees. The two can often feel distanced from each other.