Trustees Week – Caroline Gilchrist on why she loves volunteering with Children 1st.

To celebrate Trustee Week – an annual event to showcase the great work that trustees do by volunteering their time to support charities – we spoke to Children 1st Trustee, fundraiser and campaigner Caroline Gilchrist.

With a decade of experience as a corporate lawyer and seven years of volunteering with Children 1st in the Communications and Policy team, Caroline is committed to the vision and values of Children 1st. Here she explains that being a trustee has been a really positive experience.


What inspired you to become a Trustee with Children 1st?


When I was pregnant with my third child, I started thinking about taking a break from working in the corporate world and doing something to give back to the community. While my kids were young, I thought it was the perfect time to do something that was going to be fulfilling and also challenging, using my skills in a positive way for a greater good. So when I saw an advert for a volunteer policy position at Children 1st, I jumped at the chance. I helped with Children 1st’s policy team for a couple of years and then the head of the policy team said the charity was looking for board members and wondered if I would be interested in applying. At that point I wasn’t sure what I could offer but they encouraged me to apply because of my legal skills and the fact that they knew I was passionate about Children 1st and children and young people. So I decided to go for it and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it since.


Can you tell us about what your role as a Trustee involves?

As a Trustee, your role is to help govern the organisation and to give support to the senior management in fulfilling the aims of the charity. As a charity are governed by a Royal Charter which sets out the structure of the charity. We have a board of trustees which oversees the management team – but our role is strategic guidance not micro-managing the senior management. We support management by offering advice and to be that extra level of governance. We make sure that the charity is operating in a way that benefits the children and families that we support.  Trustees basically try to help steer the organisation to make sure that it’s working towards its aims. There’s 15 Trustees on the Children 1st board and we all have different experiences and skills. As a board we try to be joined up in the way we approach things so we’re there to support the management and challenge them as necessary. We always try to keep on the same track as management, always keeping the children and families we support at the centre of everything we do. It has been great to be a voice for children and to be able to use my legal background to bring a different perspective.


How does it make you feel to be a trustee?

It has had a really positive impact on me. It's been brilliant because I’ve met so many different people who are passionate about their jobs in a way that was different from the corporate world. I’ve seen how the Children 1st staff have such a passion to work alongside and support families. It’s just so positive to know that I’m making a contribution. It makes me feel quite proud but it has also opened my eyes to a different sector and a different way of working. As much as I joined the board to support and use the skills I have, you actually learn a lot which has been a real plus for me. I have helped fundraise for the organisation with my family, and I have also continued to help with the campaigning and policy work. Children 1st is a great charity and is doing such amazing things with families across Scotland - it's great to be part of it!