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A tribute to our founder, Sarah Hodgkinson who passed away in January 2019 after a courageous battle with cancer.


Sarah, a senior HR professional, perceived that, in order to improve the governance of the boards of charities and schools, what was needed was to recruit board members with the necessary skills. Her innovative thinking was to incorporate employee board-level volunteering into the training and leadership development programmes of senior managers and talent pools in FTSE 100 companies and in central government departments. The result of her initiative was at one stroke to enhance the personal development of employees, improve the corporate social responsibility agenda of employers and to strengthen the governance of charities and schools – as Sarah herself used to say, it is a “ win, win, win” for all .


The concept of Getting on Board to encourage employee board level volunteering was launched in 2004 at a conference for leading employers hosted by Ford Motor Company Limited and in November 2005 Getting on Board became a registered charity.


With the objects of this new charity being perhaps not as immediately appealing to potential donors as those of other charities, finding the necessary funding was always going to be a challenge, but Sarah’s warm and positive personality and commitment to the cause enabled her to succeed. In November 2015 a reception was held at the House of Lords attended by representatives of public companies, government departments, the voluntary sector and a range of related organisations, at which the charity celebrated 10 years of helping individuals to become trustees. As the current CEO, Penny Wilson has commented “Sarah must have been responsible for thousands of people joining charity boards as trustees. She was certainly responsible for me becoming a trustee. I remember how passionate she was about the benefits of trusteeship and she certainly converted me!”


Past trustees of the charity have given similarly warm tributes to Sarah. Andrew Taylor, former Corporate Citizen Director of Ford Motor Company Limited and a former chair of the trustees of Getting on Board, said: ”Sarah was a wonderful person with her natural energy and infectious enthusiasm. She always brightened a room. It was real pleasure to have worked with her for a number of years”.


Clare Parsons, Chair of Lansons, said: “Sarah was a very special person, so full of generosity and compassion. I was a trustee of Getting on Board, and in all the times we worked together, she always saw the best in people, and the opportunity. She never wavered in her commitment to the cause, moved around obstacles and built partnerships and collaborations whenever she could. Sarah’s vision and the charity made a huge difference to so many. Indeed her work continues to live on in so many people, and so many ways.”


Employers, professional bodies, such as the Institute of Directors and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and government departments were all urged by Sarah to raise the profile of employee board-level volunteering. Sarah was herself a trustee of a number of charities and the chair of a school board of governors and so spoke with the conviction born of personal experience. In November 2015, looking back at the first 10 years of the charity, Sarah posted her thoughts: “Since 2005, there has been a significant increase in employers’ and employees’ understanding of the benefits of board-level volunteering. More and more employers are encouraged by their employees to volunteer. One reason for this is that increasingly candidates are asking employers at interview ‘What does your organisation do for the community? People are wanting to work for an organisation that ‘puts something back into society’ and offering board-level volunteering helps employers to become ‘employers of choice’ ”.


Under Sarah’s leadership Getting on Board was an active founding partner of Trustees Week, a Charity Commission initiative to raise awareness of trusteeship, an annual event which continues to this day.


Sarah used her enthusiasm, her networking skills and her incredible passion for employee board-level volunteering to recruit some of the largest companies in the UK to partner Getting on Board in this work. Many of these companies are still working with Getting on Board nearly 15 years on. Her legacy lives on in Getting on Board’s work and the trustees of the charity are determined to continue Sarah’s inspirational leadership in this field. Getting on Board supports thousands of charities to find new trustees each year, most recently through the publication of its new trustee recruitment guidance which has already been downloaded by thousands of charities.

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Sarah Hodgkinson
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