Trustees Week: Why UK employers should embrace corporate trustee programmes

To mark Trustees Week (12-18 November 2018) Sophie Livingstone, Managing Director at Trustees Unlimited, is calling on more UK employers to support corporate trustee programmes to develop their employees’ skills in leadership and governance and contribute to society at the same time.

Sophie highlights that board-level volunteering programmes like ‘Step on Board’ which Trustees Unlimited runs in partnership with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) offer many benefits for companies, individuals and charities.

Sophie says,

“Trustee programmes offer employers an alternative leadership development programme and a way of exposing future leaders to the board room earlier on in their careers. Companies can improve their CSR while their employees will gain new strategic skills and governance experience and not only see how an organisation is run up close but also build valuable networks.

“Many charities now want to recruit people from professional backgrounds and to diversity their board’s skills through the recruitment of new trustees,” adds Ms Livingstone.

With approximately 196,000 charitable organisations in the UK[i], ranging from large big brand charities, to small organisations employing just a few people, there are plenty of opportunities out there. An estimated one in five charities has a vacancy on their boards.

Companies including Barclays, BlackRock, British Land, Credit Suisse, EY, Google and law firm Mishcon de Reya have all used Step on Board to place employees on charity boards.

Trustees Unlimited recently placed its 200th trustee through the programme, Hina Patel, a strategic project manager from investment firm BlackRock who joined the board of children’s charity, Starlight.

Hina was introduced to Step on Board through a Women’s Network Initiative at BlackRock, focused on getting more women onto boards and who suggested it would be great way of her gaining board level experience.

Hina said,

“I wanted to join a charity board to broaden my skills and experience and interact with people from different backgrounds. I work in strategic projects at BlackRock with a variety of different functional teams. I thought my experience would be useful to a charity, particularly as many organisations want to become more business-like and accountable.  I was keen to do something different and make a positive contribution to society.”

Since starting in June Hina is already making a positive contribution. She is confident she will acquire new skills that can be used positively in her role at BlackRock and would recommend trusteeship to others.

Another Step on Board trustee is Greg Davies, Head of Behavioural Finance at Oxford Risk who was placed through the board level volunteering programme at Barclays in 2014. Greg is still serving as a trustee at charity, Sound and Music, which is focused on promoting new music and composition.

Greg said, “The programme offered me the perfect combination of being able to do something useful, put something back into society and gain useful new skills and experience that helped me to progress my career. I would recommend the experience to others without hesitation.”

The experience has also enhanced his career and he is now running a small business. He added, “I would really recommend trusteeships to others who run their own business or those looking for NED roles or a portfolio career. I would say gain early board experience and get on the ladder as quickly as possible.”

Sophie Livingstone concludes,

“Step on Board has helped many blue-chip companies develop existing and future leaders and to engage with charities in a meaningful and sustainable way.

“As a charity trustee at the Royal Voluntary Service and also Chair of Little Village I can personally vouch that trusteeships are a fantastic way to develop career and life skills by doing something purposeful that also gives something back to people and the community.”

For more information about the programme, visit or email [email protected].