‘The Governance Gap’ – and why fundraisers could fill it

03 November 2021
Governance and Compliance
Standard Content
Writing on the pavement saying

For Trustees’ Week, one of the Chartered Institute’s own trustees Kerys Sheppard MCIOF talks about why, during a time where both job and trustee vacancies are at a record high, employees are looking for roles where they can add value. She explains why for fundraisers, being a trustee can offer you the opportunity to do just that.

A year ago, I wrote a blog for Trustees’ Week encouraging fellow fundraisers to seek voluntary positions at Board level and develop their strategic skillset. We’re resilient and talented people, and we have a lot to offer. Twelve months on, we’re navigating our charities through a time that economists are labelling the ‘Great Resignation’ and even paid roles are becoming increasingly difficult to fill, let alone unpaid ones. So what has changed?

It’s certainly an employee’s market. Demand for talent is fast outstripping supply, and our sector is not immune to the challenges of these operational and strategic labour shortages. Equally, you could argue that now is a great time to embark upon, or further, a career in fundraising; there are so many fantastic causes investing in their teams right now. The flexibility of working remotely coupled with the growth that has come from income diversification during lockdown means fundraisers have more choice about where and how they work than they ever did before. We don’t need to be at an event to deliver an event. Who’d have thought it?!

We have all, no doubt, re-evaluated our priorities at some point over the last 18 months and our boundaries, personally and professionally, have changed. We have thought long and hard about what it means to work, and what work means to us. Those we know in roles that have been less than fulfilling have voted with their feet and moved on.

‘Our jobs are values-based’

As fundraisers, our jobs are values-based. We believe that we can change the world for the better, and that’s a great selling point to those seeking a career or a voluntary role that aligns more closely with their own passion and beliefs. This surge in opportunity is something that should be grasped with both hands. Trustee vacancies are at an all-time high. An online search undertaken at the time of writing found 462 charity Trustee roles being advertised on one job site alone. Does this suggest a gap in governance, and are charities at great risk of losing experienced volunteers as well as staff?

Being a volunteer can be very rewarding, but also very demanding. Leadership isn’t easy at the best of times and research suggests that the charity sector could be facing a strategic crisis as nearly half of senior leaders are considering walking away due to burnout. Our day jobs aside, we’ve all faced challenges at home, be it the balance of childcare or home schooling, concerns about the health of family or friends or the fatigue of home working, all of which have impacted on our mental wellbeing. Understandably, this leaves little headspace for additional responsibility.

But perhaps the ‘Great Resignation’ might be more aptly named the ‘Great Re-Evaluation’? Employees aren’t simply retiring, quitting or job-hopping. People genuinely feel they have more to give and are seeking roles that help them do that. Joining a Board that both fulfils you and challenges you in equal measure is a great privilege. I’m a big believer in ‘give and get’ (as most fundraisers are), and by giving my time to the Board of a cause I care about, I get so much in return. I add value, as all Trustees should, and I get to see the mechanics of an organisation whilst connecting with, and learning from, some great people. The governance roles that I hold are ones that I have proactively sought out, either because they align with my cultural identity, which is hugely important to me as a ‘Cymraes falch’ (proud Welsh woman!), or because I believe in the impact of that organisation.

‘An organisation’s greatest asset’

There is no secret formula to being a good Trustee. When you stand back and strip away an organisation’s policies, procedures and politics, you’re left with the greatest asset it has – its people. If you’re a good person with good intent, you’re half way there.

This Trustees’ Week, I would encourage you to take a moment to reflect and think about what matters to you in the here and now. Know where to draw the line and if that means stepping back or stepping aside, do just that. If you’re looking to step up, I can guarantee there is a Board out there that would be very lucky to have you.

I would like to see us come together and make a joint commitment to develop a pipeline of Trustees for the future. Look at the talent around you and encourage and support our emerging leaders to develop and grow. In doing so, be present, visible and authentic; be ‘you’.

Great leaders paint a vision of what the future will hold, and motivate you to be a part of it.

Kerys Sheppard MCIOF
Kerys Sheppard MCIOF
Head of Fundraising Shelter Cymru. Trustee Cardiff City Football Club Foundation and Chartered Institute of Fundraising. Vice Chair Governing Body of Welsh-medium primary school, Ysgol Bryn Onnen
Members Only Content