Aidan volunteers as a trustee for Sight for Surrey
Tell us more about being a trustee
"At the most basic level, trustees set the overall strategy for the organisation. The core of my role is attending board meetings, reading reports and ultimately participating in making decisions. That means asking lots of questions, keeping abreast of what's going on and thinking ahead. Whilst you have to have a good overall picture, most trustees give particular focus to their own areas of interest and for me that's services for children and young people. I like to attend events wherever possible, or support the team in important decisions such as recruitment."
How did you become a trustee?
"I've been a trustee for four years. Throughout my time at school I benefited from support from Sight for Surrey, particularly mobility services. When I left university a position with the organisation came up and a staff member who had worked with me suggested my name. I was then interviewed by two trustees."
What skills do you feel are important for a trustee?
"Having the ability to work with people with different backgrounds and experiences is a must. You need to be a confident communicator. I think empathy and understanding are also crucial. We do what we do for the people who use our services and we have to try and walk in their shoes when thinking about what's best. It's also good to be able to relate to people and for Sight for Surrey's trustees it's important to feel comfortable talking to people with sensory loss.
Finally, the role comes with plenty of opportunities to develop so you need to be aware of your own knowledge gaps and how you could do things better and be willing to do it. For me, that meant getting a better understanding of finances."
What do you find most rewarding about being a trustee?
"Being a part of what Sight for Surrey does, meeting people we are helping and hearing the stories of how we make a difference. I think putting my own experiences to good use is also really rewarding in itself. I love the challenge of being part of something that grows over time and thinking about where we're going next. I see a lot of hard work and dedication from people brilliant at what they do and it gives me a sense of pride to be supporting that."
Do you have advice for anyone thinking of applying to become a trustee?
"Be sure it's the right type of involvement for you. It was a natural fit for my skills and strengths, as well as being a regular but not huge time commitment – absolute minimum would be a meeting every quarter and a couple of additional meetings during the year, which would moderately increase if you became more involved, as most trustees do. We hold some of our meetings in the evenings to make things easier for people who work full time.
I like meetings and discussions, so the role works well for me, and I get plenty of opportunities to be more involved on the ground too if I wish. If it's what you want, I would say have confidence: caring about what the organisation or charity does, being willing to learn and knowing what you have to offer is the perfect starting point!
There is no one definition of what makes the perfect trustee; diversity and difference makes a board effective. You might not know straight away what your particular role in that group will be, and that's okay: it's a role you settle in to over your first few meetings. I was quite unfamiliar with the way boards work but the alien soon became very familiar and I was well-supported by trustees and staff alike."
To find out more about volunteering with Sight for Surrey, visit their website.
To speak to someone about volunteering where you live, get in touch with your local Volunteer Centre.