Teenaged Trustee: Being a 19-Year-Old Board Member

By Jade Clarke, Aylesbury Youth Action

Jade Clarke
Jade Clarke

When I first got involved with youth volunteering charity Aylesbury Youth Action at the age of 14, it was motivated almost exclusively by the need to meet the volunteering requirement of my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Five years later, I’m 19 and the youngest Trustee the organisation has ever had. So how did this happen, and how do I go about being a Trustee whilst still being a volunteer within the charity?

Early Days

While I was signing up for my first project (gardening for a local disabled lady), the path was already being laid for young Trustees of AYA. In order to strive towards an objective of being youth-led, the existing Trustees decided to convert the charity’s structure to a CIO and begin accepting Trustees aged over 16. Initially, I felt somewhat detached from the idea –  when I was asked to participate in a poll on whether 16-year-olds should be allowed to be Trustees I had to ask my mother what a Trustee was. But as the concept was discussed more with volunteers, and as I became involved in more and more projects, I began to wonder whether I should give being a Trustee a go.

Throughout my volunteering journey I became increasingly interested in the work going on behind the scenes. I became part of the Management Advisory Committee, a board of volunteers who met regularly to discuss how projects were going. I started asking questions when I was in the office: where do grants come from? How do finances work in a not-for-profit organisation? Eventually, the decision was finalised and the paperwork done to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to become official Trustees of AYA. All that was needed was one volunteer to be the first to make the jump.

So I did.

Step by Step

I went along to a couple of board meetings before committing myself – partly to get used to the idea of what being a Trustee would truly mean, and partly to see how other board members would react to having a teenager in their midst. All were accepting, kind and patient, and the age gap wasn’t as great as I had anticipated: the then youngest Trustee was only in her twenties, and fitted seamlessly into the group. After a few months, the AGM came around and, aged only 17, I was officially appointed as a Trustee.

Balancing Act

Despite my increased involvement in the charity, I was – and am – still able to volunteer on projects. The contradiction of me being simultaneously above and below the Manager is simply a non-issue. In meetings, I’m a Trustee and treated the same as other board members. On projects, I’m just another volunteer, interacting with project workers the same way as I always have… despite the fact that by the time I sat my A Levels I had been involved in the recruitment of two staff members, including the current Manager.

Being a Trustee fitted easily around school and, more recently, university. Meetings don’t begin until 7:45pm and are currently planned to fall neatly within university holidays, but the use of video conferencing has been discussed in case dates change and I’m still at university on a meeting day. I travel home for big events such as the annual Celebration Evening, but can deal with everyday tasks and emails from my room in halls.

Final Thoughts

As well as the obvious experience and CV benefits I gain from being a Trustee, my role has given me invaluable knowledge of the charitable sector. Being both a Trustee and a volunteer has helped me narrow the gap between the two, facilitating greater awareness among fellow volunteers of how the charity functions. As AYA ages, I will age with it. But new young Trustees will come in to take my place, introducing more new values and ideas. And I, along with the rest of my organisation, am excited to see where that will lead.




To be, or not to be… a trustee

By Lesley Davies, CIB trustee

How it started for me

We’re all busy, and it’s rare to stop, or even pause, long enough to do a mental stock-take of life. I had this chance earlier in 2017 when I left my role as a People Director in a busy telecoms’ company. Instead of throwing all my energy into another paid position, I stopped to consider some of the things that I could do that might bring me deeper fulfillment.

Of course, on the list there was spending more quality time with my husband and family, the chance to care for my mum who has Alzheimer’s, and learning a new skill – which for me was swimming lessons.  But I also had a strong desire to be more involved in my local community, and to use what talent I had for the good of others. Food for the soul!

Where could I make a valuable contribution?

But that was just the beginning – what was right for me? Where could I offer a valuable contribution?  The web was my “go-to” place, and lady luck was shining as I quickly found an event for potential Trustees where I could find out more. I met a number of charities and community groups at Community Impact Buck’s (CIB’s) 2017 Trustee Fair. I was truly enthused, impressed and inspired by the number of people from all walks of life who were taking action to make lives better in their communities. Through conversation, I learnt how each charity needed and valued their Trustees, and gained clarification about the types of skills that would help them at their stage of development. I left the event with a shortlist, and a firm resolve!

Meet and Match

I started to really think both about what I could give as a Trustee … but also what I would get in return.

I did a mental list.

It was important to use my attitude, skills, experience, and to feel some satisfaction from doing this.

Teamwork is important to me, and after 25+ years of working in great teams, I liked the idea of joining another team who were passionate and committed.

I was planning to take a year out of work, but I knew that I would need mental stimulation, a challenge, and some level of responsibility.

I also wanted to continue learning, particularly about the voluntary and community sector, after years of the corporate world.

For me, joining the CIB Board seemed to be the right fit.

The Experience So Far

It is still early days for me as a Trustee at CIB; after several months of being “co-opted” onto the Board, I was formally appointed at the AGM last month.

I joined just as the team was bidding for funding for the next 2 years. It was an extremely busy period for CIB, and there was an anxious wait for the outcome…which was successful! In many ways, it was a great introduction to the organisation, and it certainly made me very aware of the value of my fellow Trustees, who gave outstanding expertise and support in this critical process.

There have been recent changes to the Trustee Board, with the appointment of a new Chair, Mimi Harker OBE, and a number of Trustees reaching the end of their terms. There are definitely some “big shoes to fill”, but I am enjoying the developing sense of teamwork within our Trustee Board.

I weighed up the time commitment required when I joined as a Trustee – would I have room in a busy life? As with anything important, you make time, and I find that the rewards of learning new things, stretching myself, and supporting others, more than compensates for the time invested.

My advice to anyone else asking themselves the question ….to be or not to be a Trustee? I would say just take the first step, and you will soon find that there are plenty of resources (for example from Reach Volunteering, a CIB partner) to help you work out if it is the right role for you –  and the right time for you.

For me, I am so glad I took the plunge, and I am looking forward to being actively involved during my 3 year term.

Good luck with your trustee search!