Phoebe Scriven joined Share's Board of Trustees in 2012. Here, she reviews life as a 'youth trustee'.
Before I started the process of becoming a trustee, I generally considered it one of the many positions for which I was wholly under qualified. ‘Board of Trustees’ conjured something akin to the moment in Mary Poppins where Banks is fired: I am thinking less of a child causing a minor economic crash but more the scan of the long, polished, mahogany table surrounded by scrutinising, bearded gentleman. Trusteeship was an unconsidered direction because various aspects of my being simply did not align to the common idea of what a trustee looks like: I was mid-20s, with little knowledge of the sector and only a few years into my career.
I only considered it when I met another so-called ‘youth trustee’, half-cut (him not me) at a drinks party during the Christmas swirl. He declared his role and promptly lurched off, leaving me to ponder whether this was more a Dickensian encounter of the Christmas future rather than an alcoholic ramble. Settling firmly on the former for peace of mind, I tracked down the very helpful charity Getting On Board, who after a few calls and discussions put me in touch with Share. The fact that I am writing this can probably give you a clue to where that netted out.
So I’m in. Including writing blogs, trustees carry out mix of subjects and activities. To those unfamiliar with our board structure, we have a main board that meets every two months, as well as various subcommittees that look at more focused areas on a similar timescale. We have a Chair, a Vice Chair and a Treasurer as well as others running said various subcommittees. Discussions range from finances, fundraising and recruitment, to what we offer students and what’s going on day-to-day at Altenburg Gardens. We deal in actions, decisions and advice and it’s not always easy to know the right way.
The responsibility is not to be taken lightly but that’s not to say it’s not rewarding. Being a trustee has given me a range of different experience, a tangible impact on others and a chance to apply skills in a whole new setting. Yes, at times the extra responsibility and time it takes can grate; there’s nothing like the conundrum of a volunteer’s guilt. Yet, I enjoy it and derive a fulfilment from it that I would lack elsewhere in my life.
Fast forward to two years on from joining the board, it may still be that I am indeed under qualified. But I’m less worried about this now. There is no perfect trustee – my ignorance is the Yin to the Yang of my niche knowledge in somewhere else. While being at Share I have been involved in a variety of areas and ways that I did not foresee and have realised that the vital qualifications are of character: commitment, shared values, and a hearty appreciation of the board meeting sandwiches – little more, no less.