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Making the leap: from charity worker to trustee

A challenging experience working in the charity sector inspired Fozia Haider to find out more about becoming a trustee and how she could make a difference.

Why did you want to become a trustee?

It was looking at a really bad board that made me want to become a trustee myself. I was working with a charity and then when the charity manager left I stepped in. It was a very difficult position; there was so much discord, no planning and a general lack of communication between the CEO and the board. The worst bit was that I only had 10 minutes with the board at the monthly board meeting. I was summoned in and then sent away again.

It’s amazing you weren’t put off being a trustee! Why did you want to carry on?

Charities do amazing things. I experienced that first hand. Despite the problems I did amazing things myself in that role that I put my heart and soul into. I collaborated with other organisations, led initiatives and updated the service centre. You can really impact people’s lives through charity work.

What do you think caused the problems?

One of the reasons was that it was that the board was only made up of older people and a good board needs a balance of diverse ages and experiences. It’s not unique to that charity though. Unfortunately there are a lot of problems in the sector generally and since then I’ve had discussions on Twitter with people coming forward to talk about their experiences of bad governance.

But on the other hand, meeting other charities let me know that they could function very well too. Seeing how other charities and experiencing how they worked, while I was attending funding fairs and other sector events made me want to learn more.

What did you want to learn from the Charity Board Leadership Programme?

I wanted to be a trustee and to make an impact. Also, I wanted to be reassured on what good governance was and looked like. I’d read up about it on the Charity Commission website but I wanted more. I wanted to know about the role of a board member and the role of the CEO and how they work together.

How did you find out about Getting on Board’s Charity Board Leadership Programme?

I found out about it on Twitter! I joined Twitter in 2019 so I could manage the social media for the charity I was working with and then when I was furloughed I spent more time on it and started following more people in the charity sector.

What did you think of the programme?

Penny [Wilson, Getting on Board, CEO] is brilliant, Anj [Handa, Charity Board Leadership Programme trainer] is brilliant. The course content was great; well structured. It was facilitated really well and the speakers were really, really good.

I met lovely, lovely people on the programme and I’m still in touch with them. As a delegate you’re assigned a Getting on Board coach for ongoing support and there’s a drop box full of resources to help you when you’re making applications.

Did doing the course change your idea about what good trusteeship is?

Absolutely. It would have been easy to walk away from the sector after my experiences but the programme showed me how to be a good trustee. It gave me the courage to be more vocal. It’s taught me you can only make change if you’re there.

What does the future hold for you?

When I did the Charity Board Leadership Programme amazing things happened and I’ve turned that negative experience into something positive. The programme definitely opened doors. I’m hoping to start my first trustee role next month!

Find out more about how the Charity Board Leadership Programme can help you become a trustee here . Registration for the Spring Summer 2021 cohort closes on 14 May.

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