In Praise of Trustees

The role of trustee, specifically in relation to Quakers, seems to be in the mix for me at the moment. The possibility of allowing my name to go forward for this role via my area meeting nominations committee has been something I have been considering for a while, especially now another role I have within the area meeting is coming to an end, but suddenly trusteeship just seems to be in the air.

For a start, our Reading Quaker Faith & Practice programme hit the chapter on Trusteeship in August. I’m a bit behind with my reading schedule, but it has certainly proved timely to be reminded of the importance of this role and also its rootedness in spiritual practice. Secondly, we had a presentation at our last area meeting by our link representative and supporter from the Quaker Stewardship Committee who gave information about the role of trustees.

In a recent post on his excellent blog Silent Assemblies, Mike Farley talks about the spiritual dimensions of stewardship and good governance – you can find the full piece here: https://silentassemblies.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/reading-quaker-faith-practice-ch-15/. He speaks about his surprise at his name being brought forward as a trustee because he is ‘a person of prayer’ and has little financial or administrative experience. It is brilliant that his nominations committee discerned the wider needs and aspects of this role, but what surprises me is that they appeared to find it ‘relatively easy’ to pinpoint Friends who had relevant professional experience and were willing to serve.

It has always been hard for charities to find trustees. I have worked in the voluntary sector over many years and have never met an organization that did not struggle to fill these roles and remain quorate. Indeed, this is partly why we had the excellent presentation at our area meeting – our nominations committee is struggling to find names to bring forward and people willing to serve as a trustee. We had a group exercise following the presentation where we looked at, amongst other things, the reasons people may be put off the role of trustee. It made me think hard about why, despite considering whether this could be where my service lies and feeling a leading in this direction, I have not yet taken the step of letting my name come forward. Setting aside the rather sad observation that trustees are often seen as ‘them’ – a body that is separate and different from other Quaker roles and service – a big part of my reluctance is the responsibilities that the role involves.

Trustees are wonderful, and highly undervalued, people. They have oversight of an organization and legal responsibility for the affairs of the charity. This includes responsibilities with respect to charity law requirements, property, employment and employees, health and safety, and child protection. It is not an easy list. Trustees are also ‘volunteers’ – unpaid and, in many organisations, not provided with the training that they need. Because I would take these responsibilities seriously I find the prospect of being nominated as a trustee a daunting one.

But it is also exciting. The few trustees who remain in our area meeting are excellent, able and dedicated people. One of the requirements for Quaker trustees is that they ‘must be well-grounded in the life and concerns of the meeting for which they act’ (Quaker Faith & Practice 15.07), and there is joy and creativity in being part of a group who uphold and enable this life and these concerns. Quaker trustee business meetings are held in a spirit of worship, and the meeting that appointed them is asked to support and uphold them and their work. The other requirement for a trustee suggested both by Quaker Faith & Practice and by someone at our presentation is for a person who has basic common sense – of course some of my Ffriends may say this rules me out!

So let’s celebrate our trustees, Quakerly or otherwise. Let’s demystify the ‘them’ and remember that they are ordinary people who give extraordinary service and an underpinning to everything that a charity does, whether religious or not.

MAD MOMENT…

Every day! Just juggling dad stuff, job searches, writing promotion, and completing my work on simplicity.

MARVEL MOMENT…

The joy of welcoming someone new into Quaker membership – hearing about the spiritual and life journey that has brought someone to Quakers is always special, and it feels like a privilege to be part of this process.

© Anne de Gruchy

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