By Lady Anne Stoneham MBE
Like anyone undertaking such a role, I have tried to understand what is needed to be effective as a chair. Clearly the role involves leading the Board of the Charity and ensuring that the Board works as effectively as possible so it can fulfil its function of being responsible for the governance of the Charity. So often people have asked me what has really made a real difference in trying to fulfil the responsibilities of my role.
It goes without saying that having the right people on the Board with whom to work makes an enormous difference. Getting the right combination of skills and experience on a Board is crucial and that can include high profile individuals who can bring contacts and networks that may help unlock sources of funding. This involves ongoing renewal and we recognise it means planning for the future and seeking to recruit and replace Trustees where and when required. At UK Youth we are very fortunate to have a Board with a wide variety of skills and experience from the private, public and voluntary sectors including accounting, financial, management consultancy, media and communications, education, programme management, and from the youth sector itself through our members and strategic partners. But more than that I, and the Charity, are privileged to have Board members who are genuinely passionate about the work of the Charity and what it is capable of delivering for young people. Their work and commitment is not just about turning up to meetings occasionally – it involves so much more. Not every charity is so fortunate.
What for me though has been of real value, and has made an enormous contribution to how I can fulfil my role of Chair, is that my Board members give their time and counsel when asked for and when needed to me, and all the team at UK Youth, notwithstanding the fact they are volunteers and have busy lives at work and at home. Having a fully engaged, cohesive and collegiate Board that understands its responsibilities and takes them seriously makes a huge practical difference. It is not a Board of egos but a Board that is prepared to roll up its sleeves when needed to ensure the charity is well run and sustainable. It gives support and encouragement but also seeks accountability and transparency by asking searching questions and is prepared to take tough decisions. When there have been challenges to meet, whether one off or ongoing, everyone has stepped up to the plate. Some are available whenever needed on the end of a phone or by email. Others work behind the scenes on committees or on an ad hoc basis to help support key areas of work. Trustees have taken time to attend staff meetings, meet up with key staff to support them and keep abreast of developments or issues that have needed monitoring and provided help and encouragement. As a new Chair with a new CEO, the job has at times felt daunting but it has not been lonely. I have been fantastically well supported by a committed Board, as has the executive team and the Charity, and that has made all the difference.