Archive for the ‘charity’ Category

How old should charity trustees be?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

I commented on an interesting blog post about young charity trustees a few weeks ago. By chance, I came across the post again today, and noticed that my comment wasn’t there – presumably swallowed by spam filters as it had quite a few links in it.

I still have it in my cache, so I thought I’d add an intro and re-post it here, so it gets to see the light of day 🙂

The age of charity trustees is a topic which comes up from time to time, particularly amongst those of us who work in youth volunteering charities.

For readers from the corporate world, it’s perhaps worth some quick background about trustees. The best analogy for a charity trustee is company director. As with companies, many charities (including my own) employ full-time staff, whose job and career it is to work for. We also employ a full time manager – in our case, a ‘Chief Officer’, who is responsible for running the organisation. In all operational respects, they are in charge.

Trustees are similar to company directors (except that we don’t get paid!). In the same way that corporate CEOs have to answer to a board of directors, a charity Chief Officer is responsible to a board of trustees. The trustees are responsible for strategy, for long-term planning, for direction. The trustees define where they want the organisation to go in broad terms, while it is the staff under the direction of a manager or Chief Officer who put in the hard work to make it actually happen.

Another analogy from my experience are schools. The headteacher is the boss for the day-to-day running of a school, but they have to answer to a board of governors, who are responsible for framing policy and setting direction.

(In reality, the line between what is operational and what is strategic can often be a little fuzzy, so it’s essential that a manager and the trustees work together in partnership.)

So the question that the original blog post was looking at was about who is suitable for such a role. Someone who can look at the big picture. Someone who can help create a vision for how the organisation could be, and help define the strategy and direction necessary to make that a reality. Someone mature enough to be responsible for the many legal obligations that come with trusteeship, such as responsibility for the finances.

And in particular, how old do you need to be to be suitable for such a position?


Working with young people – opportunities worth looking at

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

I am a volunteer mentor with On The Level: a Rethink project providing mentoring to young people leaving care, to ease their transition from being “looked after” to living independently.

The nature of the role means it’s something that I rarely blog or tweet about. However, we have monthly training sessions that sometimes cover interesting topics that can be shared, such as how youth mental health services work and drugs awareness training.

Tonight, one of the things that came up was an overview of some of the other youth mentoring projects in the area. I’d heard good things about them before, and it was interesting to hear more about them.

I thought it was worth sharing an overview of two projects in particular that sounds like they are worth looking at. If you live in the Southampton / Winchester area, maybe one of these would be a fun way for you to help make a difference in a young person’s life?


v Awards Portsmouth 2009

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

photo 094Tonight was the v Awards Evening 2009 in Portsmouth – a youth volunteering achievements awards event to celebrate the work done by young people in Portsmouth.

It was run by Solent Youth Action, as we deliver the vinvolved youth programme in Portsmouth, so I went along (originally to watch and lend moral support, but I ended up getting roped into going on stage to present some of the awards and be a guest speaker!).

It was a great evening. Awards evenings can often be dull and repetitive affairs, but I loved this one. I find it inspiring to hear the wide variety of ways that the young people have contributed to their community, and the evening was a great taster of the work that we are doing in the Portsmouth area.


Charity auction for Comic Relief

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

I generally try and avoid using my blog to ask for help for Solent Youth Action – the last time I remember doing it was back in 2007 when I was looking for mentors for our new mentoring scheme.

So I hope you’ll forgive me now if I try and use my space here to ask for support for an SYA event coming up.

If you are near Hursley next Monday (16th) afternoon, please come along to the Clubhouse at 2.30pm.

Young volunteers for SYA are refurbishing old furniture: restoring it, cleaning it, and decorating it. They hadn’t done anything like this before, so it has been a great opportunity to them to learn new, practical skills.

The furniture was all donated – these were items that otherwise would’ve been thrown away, making it also a good chance to teach a valuable reduce, reuse, recycle message.

The fruits of their labour will go on sale in a charity auction to be held in the Clubhouse, with all money received to be donated to Comic Relief.

Please come along and take a look at what they’ve been working on.

More details about the event, and the items of furniture that the young people are working on, can be found on the SYA website.

Crisis Christmas

Monday, December 29th, 2008

I’m not normally one for habits or routine, but Christmas is an exception – it’s one time when I’m happy, if not actually quite comforted, to do the same stuff I do every year. Traditions are part of the festive magic.

One of my traditions, which started for me when I was at Uni, is to go up to London for Crisis Christmas – the annual homeless shelters event organised by Crisis.

Crisis Christmas provides over a thousand people with a warm, dry place to spend the festive period, and somewhere to share a meal and watch some Christmas telly – the stuff that we all take for granted.

But it’s more than that. People from various specialties and professions volunteer their services, making the Crisis shelters also an opportunity to see a doctor, get a healthcheck – even an X-ray (useful for detecting TB), see a vet (important to the many homeless people who have dogs), see a dentist, a hairdresser, a chiropodist (vital to a group of people whose feet are so often cold and damp, where even getting trench foot is not uncommon), an optician, a pharmacist, get help writing a letter or filling in forms, talk with advisors such as benefits advisors, housing advisors, legal advisors, and loads more.


SYA – thinking ahead

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

Solent Youth Action started life as the Eastleigh Millennium Volunteers (MV) project. The charity was started as the result of identifying limitations with that project, and expanding on it with complimentary projects which, over time, became larger than the MV work itself.

But that heritage does show through in our aims and objectives which talk about “empowering young people to develop as individuals … through volunteering whilst making a positive contribution to the community”. We are first and foremost a youth volunteering organisation.

The last year or so have been very successful for SYA, and with v funding secured for the next three years, the immediate future looks good. But what happens next? How should we continue to grow and develop?

One approach that we’ve been discussing this week is whether we should moving beyond purely volunteering. We already have a number of objectives in trying to help the young people that we work with: around their personal development. This can be emotional development, it can be skills development, it can be educational, it can be career-focused… with an underlying theme throughout of helping young people. But always, this is done through volunteering activities.

What if we removed that restriction, and focused more generally on helping young people develop?


A year in SYA

Monday, August 11th, 2008

After my post looking back at five years at IBM, time for another reflective look back.

This time: looking back at the last year’s work in Solent Youth Action. I’ve just had to write the Chair’s foreword for our Annual Report. Writing coherent English is never my strong suit, so I figure that as I spent a fair bit of time trying to write it I might as well reuse it in as many places as possible!


Who can we trust with children?

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

I took Grace to a birthday party yesterday morning for one of her friends. It was at a soft-play centre in Southampton – in many ways, an ideal place to have a birthday party for a group of excited three and four year olds. Except, as we went in, I noticed a sign:

“In the interest of CHILD PROTECTION, photography is NOT PERMITTED”

It’s such a shame – because when it’s your own child’s birthday party, of course you want to get photos of them playing with their friends on their big day. But his parents weren’t allowed to do that. Because of “child protection”.

It’s not to say that I’ve not seen this before – all of the soft-play centres I’ve taken Grace to have the same rules, and we had the same thing at Grace’s birthday party in the Marwell centre. But I noticed it more because it reminded me of a discussion from Thursday night. Thursday night was a training session for a youth mentoring programme that I’m a volunteer with, and someone mentioned something they’d seen discussed in an interview with Esther Rantzen on GMTV. The story goes that a parent was arrested for taking photographs of their own children in a public playground. It sounded pretty shocking – over the last few years, I’ve probably taken hundreds of photos of my girls in our local park, and I wouldn’t think of that as being even suspicious, let alone something warranting arrest!