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How Business Leaders Can Make Charities More Effective

Have you considered how your experiences and skills can be transferred to the charity sector? According to Reach Volunteering, it is estimated that almost half of all charities are searching for trustees at anyone time. Trustees bring on board external expertise, which is crucial to many charities as it enhances the day-to-day running of the organisation.

Business leaders and entrepreneurs can offer much to charities, whilst many who do become trustees find the experience enriches their own life. Being a trustee of a charity does require commitment and an understanding of the charity’s work and its responsibilities, and while having an affinity for its cause is not a pre-requisite, it does make the role of trustee more rewarding.

Charities, regardless of size, expect its board of trustees to bring many benefits aside from the key role of governance. Charities specifically look for trustees that can bring a unique set of skills and expertise gleaned in business that can be used to innovate and deliver creative solutions to charities.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought significant changes to the charity sector and how they operate, which makes trustees even more valuable. As a charity founder and CEO, I have brought trustees on board and seen the impact they have made.

There are four key areas that trustees can enhance. These are:

·       Knowledge and skills gaps

·       Income generation

·       Expanded network

·       Influence and wellbeing

Bringing knowledge and skills

It’s unreasonable to expect just one person to know everything about the industry they operate in. While a CEO will oversee the day-to-day running of the charity and potentially have a management team to assist, trustees bring new skills, can draw on their experiences and also bring fresh perspectives gleaned from business. A trustee is a ‘critical friend’ to the CEO and will be looked upon to offer guidance that will support the existing leadership team.

Invariably, professionals from different career backgrounds, be that marketing and PR, financial, legal or IT, for example, can bring insight and best practices to charities to enable them to overcome challenges and advance the charity.

This was typified during the pandemic when those charities that could continue adopted new digital practices in how they operated and delivered their objectives. Trustees with this knowledge can play a role and did so with Total Insight Theatre.

Income generation

The Guardian says that “A charity cannot change the world if it is bankrupt”. If charities are to deliver then having sustainable income streams is essential. While grants and donations are the two main sources of finance for charities, financial resilience can be achieved by seeking new income streams.

Businesses are adept at diversifying, streamlining and also sourcing fresh income streams. Bringing in trustees with financial acumen and who can bring a new perspective to fundraising are highly sought after. While many trustees ‘dig in’ and may take part in initiatives that bring in new resources, they invariable bring fresh eyes and ideas too. 

Trustees have the ability to explore partnerships and sponsorships from businesses, which may not have previously been accessible. By generating fresh income streams, which enables charities to deliver and expand their remit, it can also assist in attracting future funding and beneficiaries to give the charity a more sustainable financial model.

Networking and company ambassadors

Networking is crucial for any charity. Having the ability to expand beyond its circle, to share its work and its ethos with fresh audiences is always a key. As a trustee, you are in the perfect position to assist. Being a trustee is also an ambassadorial role and the opportunity to share your experiences with others and to talk up the charity which you give your time to.

Becoming a trustee opens the door to new environments and contacts that may have been impossible for the charity to ever reach. Bringing new connections and opportunities for the charity to raise its profile to new audiences – via its trustees – is of huge benefit.

It is also beneficial to the trustee too as it can expand you contacts, open new doors and avenues. 

The ambassadorial context has a far-reaching impact on those that decide to become trustees. A survey conducted by Pilotlight found that 98% of their business members remarked how volunteering had increased their appreciation of the work of charities and social enterprises, while 87% also said they were more interested in becoming a charity trustee.

A Positive influence

The benefits of appointing business leaders to a charity’s trustee board has the potential to run deeper as it has shown to bring a positive impact to the benefactors.

The Pilotlight survey found that almost 90% of senior business executives who had been through their skills sharing programme said that engaging with charities improved their sense of wellbeing and happiness. Volunteering has been linked to higher satisfaction with life and overall happiness.

Aside from the personal enhancements, trustees not only help that organisation grow, but their actions and time can deliver real benefits to employees, who will be able to pass down insights in the same way over time.

Business leaders have much to contribute to the charity sector as a trustee. They can assist in improving the charity’s bottom line, to overcome challenges and positively impact the wellbeing of employees – as well as offering vital networking opportunities to grow enterprises further. The impact is significant.

For more information on becoming a trustee and what it entails, then read this useful publication.


About the Author

Adam Tulloch is the founder and Chief Executive of Total Insight Theatre Company, which he founded in 2014, aged 23. He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, appeared in The Big Issue’s Top 100 Changemakers 2020, and was Highly Commended as Children & Young People’s Champion in the 2020 Children & Young People Now Awards.

He has recently been appointed to the Cultural Learning Alliance Advisory Panel and was named Charity Chief Executive of the Year for organisations with annual incomes under £5M at the 2021 Third Sector Awards.

Website – https://www.totalinsighttheatre.com

Twitter – https://twitter.com/total_insight

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/totalinsight_uk

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/total-insight-theatre

Adam Tulloch