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Trustee truths: John Powlton

John Powlton is a trustee for two charities and passionate about trustee learning

John Powlton is Head of Investment Management Tax at M&G and a Getting on Board Charity Board Leadership Programme alumni who has since been appointed to two charity boards. He shares his story below.

I found out about the Charity Board Leadership Programme in 2021 when it was promoted internally as part of M&G’s Corporate Responsibility strategy, in which M&G would fund a number of participants through the programme. 

I’d known I wanted to become a trustee for a while. I’d been involved with volunteering in Malawi with an international charity and had really enjoyed it and wanted to get involved again at a more strategic level. When M&G promoted the opportunity to get involved through its support of the Charity Board Leadership Programme it represented a great chance for me to re-engage with the third sector. 

Formal training and transferable skills

The Charity Board Leadership Programme was also a chance to get formal training on trusteeship. The course was arranged in two-hour stints in the evening. The course leaders were really good at energising you; we work long hours and have busy days so that was important. It wasn’t a dry reading of legislation. Each session had a theme and we had a panel discussion too where other trustees came in and talked with us. There were a lot of interactive sessions and lots of practical help on how to apply your skills as well as sourcing opportunities to act as a trustee.

I have two trusteeships now. I found them on the Reach Volunteering website. One is a treasurer position for a housing association and the other one is a board position for a human rights charity focussing on the UK.

It’s good to be working in a very different environment to my day job. I like the mix of the two; one having a lot of resources where I deal with endowments, investments and real estate and the other one being smaller and focusing on strategic challenge and purpose. 

Continuous learning and development

I’ve learned huge amounts. I chair meetings much more now than I used to. One of the charities operates in a regulated sector and requires  very structured  governance and I chair the remuneration committee and the audit and risk committee. 

I’ve also learned how to operate on a strategic board level; how to approach problems from a perspective of what you know and what you don’t and how to plug the gap. Realising it’s ok that you don’t know everything but having a framework in place helps you and your fellow trustees to reach conclusions. 

Encouraging people to give back some of their time and expertise to a range of good causes as a trustee is clearly a social good. And there are reflected benefits for business. The Charity Board Leadership Programme is a way of upskilling staff in a variety of ways, it motivates people and gives them confidence to try something new and most importantly  provides much needed resources to the charitable sector.

Interview by Fiona McAuslan, Getting on Board's Communications Director.

Trusteeship is for everyone: find out how you can become a trustee at our What is a Trustee and How do I Become One? webinar.

And if you're a trustee who wants to keep developing; check out the other free webinars available in our Trustee Learning Programme


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