Having been at the Volunteers Centre Manchester for eight months, I decided it was about time for me to learn more about the voluntary Trustee role.
So, in the lead up to Trustees Week, I started by Googling its dictionary definition. The results were slightly dry, to say the least.
So, being more of an active person, I went along to our Capacity Building Team’s Trustee roles and responsibility training with the Friends of Burnage Library’s (FOBL) newly formed board of trustees, and got the real answer to the question ‘What is a trustee?’.
Five years ago, Burnage’s library was one of the six in Manchester earmarked for closure. If it was not for a few local residents who energised the community to defend its future - some of whom sit on the board of FOBL - that may have been the end of the story.
Since then the library - now the Burnage Library, Activity and Information Hub - has gone from strength to strength. Their newly formed board of trustees were keen to tell me their thoughts on what being a trustee means.
Carole, who has been involved since she rallied the local residents to the cause when the library was threatened with closure, said her motivation to become a trustee was that “we fought so hard to keep it open – this way I can not only continue to keep it open but flourishing too”. Her fellow trustees enthusiastically agreed.
Anne added: “The library makes such a difference to social isolation and people are physically active”. She said that helps motivates her to volunteer as a trustee.
The board all agreed that one of the main differences between being a volunteer and a trustee is the ability to make more of a difference. John said he was motivated to become a trustee as he saw it as a “step up… from being a volunteer to playing a stronger role”.
When asked about what he thought was the role of a trustee, John insightfully added that it was “to develop the vision of the organisation”. Linda encapsulated the role as helping to “keep things on an even keel and to help make the right decisions for the good of the library” with Kath adding it was “to listen and learn from others”.
Stella highlighted that being a good trustee is being willing “to fully participate in the development of the library in an open an honest way”, and Kathryn was keen to stress that being “committed to the team” as well as attending meetings regularly were key to the role.
Overall, in my morning with the trustees at Burnage Library, Activity and Information Hub I learnt that a trustee is so much more than a person who deals with administration, meetings and responsibilities. A trustee is a moral compass for an organisation. They are a volunteer with the passion, vision and the heart to go that extra step to safeguard the causes, spaces and people they care about most.