How Sathya Became a Young Trustee

3 minute read

It’s Trustees’ Week, so we asked our Marketing Assistant Sathya (24) about his experiences of becoming a young trustee. Sathya is on the board for Ideas Test, a charity that supports local communities in Swale and Medway to live better by engaging them in creative activities. He told us how he got the role and how the experience is moving him closer to his dream career…

Hi Sathya, What made you first think of becoming a trustee?

Three years ago, someone from Ideas Test came to my university to recruit young people for a nationwide touring arts project. I ended up getting an art producer role, which I thoroughly loved. I then went on to take a Project Management Assistant role there. Shortly after that role ended,  one of my colleagues mentioned there was a vacancy for a trustee that I should consider applying for.

I was really surprised with the suggestion since I have only known people with a lot more work experience to be on a trustee board. I was a bit sceptical about it at first, since it felt like a big responsibility and I wasn’t sure if I had the experience to help make important decisions.

So what made you go for it?

It was exciting. I’d just started an MBA and my ambition has always been to run my own charity someday. I’m passionate about driving change and I want to make an impact in communities around me, so this really felt like an opportunity to drive my future.

I also realised that, although younger, I had skills I could bring to the board. I had a good grasp of finance from my MBA. I also had some experience of digital marketing and I understood the charity well. I was also reassured I’d get help through onboarding—so I wouldn’t just be left to get on with it!

How did you find the application and induction process?

It wasn’t daunting at all. I had to complete an application form explaining why I wanted the role and what I could bring to the board. I then had an interview, where I felt relaxed as I knew the people on the panel.

I was happy and excited when I found out I’d got the role, but I only really had a vague idea of what it would entail. I knew there would be finance, governance and decision-making—but I didn’t really know what that would mean in reality.

As part of my induction there was an informal meeting, for myself and other newer trustees, with the other board members and staff from Ideas Test. It gave us all a chance to chat and ask questions. I also did an e-learning course from NCVO on the role and duties of a trustee, which was helpful.

Sathya sitting in a field next to an Ideas Test banner

Sathya at work in his trustee role at Ideas Test

What’s the role been like?

I’ve been doing it for thirteen months now and it’s been great—I’m really enjoying it. I love meeting new people and seeing the charity grow through innovation. At first I put a bit of pressure on myself as I didn’t feel fully-equipped for all the decision-making straightaway, but there was support there and I felt more confident before too long.

The role mostly involves going to meetings and preparing for them beforehand by reading reports. There are four board meetings a year—they are the non-negotiable ones that last around two hours and need maybe 30-60 minutes’ prep before. There are other ad hoc meetings too, about fundraising strategies and things like that. I’d say I’ve put in about 20-35 hours so far. It was a bigger time-commitment initially, to do the induction and training courses. It really depends how much time you have spare. I’ve probably been a bit more involved as I already knew the charity.

It’s been challenging to fit everything in at times—as I’m studying and have a part-time job. I’ve missed a few meetings but I’ve made it work.

There are eight of us on the board. Two co-chairs and six other board members. We all work well together. We bring a mixed bag of skills to the table.

What have you gained from the experience?

Loads! I’ve learnt how to be strategic. It’s also taught me a lot about decision-making, governance, finance, forecasting, brand and audience insights. It’s like being a foster parent to an organisation—everything you do has to be in its best interest.

I’ve also learned how to be flexible so I can fit in all my commitments and I’ve had some great networking opportunities that have happened quite naturally.

What’s next for your trustee role?

I just want to soak up as much as possible. I’ve got some good feedback from the organisation but I know I still have a lot to learn.

I’d tell anyone considering becoming a trustee just to go for it. As long as you’re passionate about the charity and know you have something to offer, don’t hold back from applying.

I’m really grateful for the opportunity. It’s very gratifying to see myself grow alongside the charity. I know this will really benefit me in the future.

Interested in getting involved? Browse our current trustee opportunities

Karen Harlow

Karen Harlow is Digital Content Manager at CharityJob.

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