Tales of an apprentice trustee

06 November 2023
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Dateline: September 2022. Scenario: Business as usual… and then I opened an email which talked about a programme running by Boardroom Apprentice. The opportunity that unraveled disrupted ‘business as usual’ and changed the course of my professional and personal development.

As a seasoned marketing communications specialist, the stories of optimism and achievement caught my attention and interest. My internal opportunist nudged me: “you’ve often thought of how to step up and serve a charity board – well, here’s your chance.”

And so began a year’s journey as Apprentice Trustee with the Chartered Institute of Fundraising.

From aspiration to reality

I am so grateful to the Chartered Institute that the organisation participated as a Host board, because it (and the Boardroom Apprentice programme) has given me an invaluable learning, development and placement opportunity and a unique way to gain experience of trusteeship so that I can move my aspiration to reality.

Fast forward to January 2023…with feelings of imposter syndrome quashed (‘why shouldn’t someone like me have transferrable skills that might be valuable to diversify boardroom perspectives?’), I immersed myself in the essentials of being a trustee. 

Nadine and Kelvin have provided great support throughout this year while I’ve been learning about trustees’ duties and legal responsibilities.Their mentorship helps me to put my learnings into context, and the generosity of fellow trustees, Katie, Melissa and all members of the Senior Leadership team means I really feel closely aligned with the fundraising community.

October 2023: What do I know now that I didn’t a year ago?

Trusteeship is super rewarding – for many reasons, not least from a sense of making a difference to the charitable cause chosen, to having new experiences and relationships. It’s also demanding of a person’s time, skills, knowledge and emotional intelligence. Legal responsibilities must be fully understood by trustees for them to carry out their duties competently. 

From my time as apprentice trustee with the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, I know that every member of the board of trustees is a passionate fundraiser and I have learned that they are dedicated to taking their responsibilities seriously. 

Whenever the board comes together, these people demonstrate what I need to know and what I need to do. Their examples have helped me better understand key duties including:

If someone like me, then someone like you

For anyone thinking about becoming a trustee, I would say consider your own personal values and how closely they align with the Seven Principles of Public Life. If what matters to you are selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, leadership – then, get on board!

It is exciting that the Chartered Institute of Fundraising is again hosting a boardroom apprenticeship for 2024. This is a great testament to its advocacy of advancing equality, diversity and inclusion.

On my journey of trusteeship, one of the key highlights has been to experience an organisation walking the walk, not just talking the talk, in terms of the changes it wants to see. 

As Nadine says while inviting a new cohort of apprentices to consider applying to the Chartered Institute, "Us being a place where someone who may not have otherwise thought about being a trustee can experience the boardroom and gain insight and experience is really important. And not just for the individual – the whole of that board, and the organisation benefits too: a fresh perspective and voice, bringing new ideas to the table, while opening up the boardroom to people from different backgrounds or levels of formal education are all really positive developments which I think every charity would value."

What's next?

One thing I know is that a career in fundraising can deliver a lifetime of impact. From various angles and through different lenses, I have seen how the Chartered Institute of Fundraising supports and empowers the fundraising community. Whatever the future holds for me professionally and personally, I will take with me the drive to make an impact. I hope that I can find a home within the Chartered Institute beyond my apprenticeship year. But wherever I land, I thank everyone here who has sponsored, mentored, advised, and helped me discover my passion for public service. 

For me, the Chartered Institute of Fundraising has delivered a Lifetime of Impact.

Karalyn Becker
Karalyn Becker
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