What can you offer to a cause you believe in?

For Volunteers Week 2018, our Vice-Chair Sandy MacDonald gives an insight into what being a voluntary Board member entails and why he’d encourage others to consider doing it.

Sandy MacDonaldFor Children 1st, the responsibility of the Board of Management is clearly stated in our Royal Charter: to be the governing body of the charity and to ensure the organisation meets other requirements set out in the charter and its standing orders. There are also well-defined regulatory responsibilities in terms of strategy, finances and governance.

Making a difference

In practice, doing the role requires attending regular Board and Committee meetings, agreeing budgets and monitoring our financial positions and our organisational performance. All of which risks sounding quite dry! What makes the difference, for me, is that these duties all relate to the organisational health of the charity and its overall ability to have the impact it needs to. Our Royal Charter that defines how we operate also states our abiding purpose - to prevent abuse and neglect of children and to assist the recovery of children from abuse and neglect, and this is obviously an incredibly motivating aim.

When I first joined a charity Board (Venture Scotland in 2006), I wanted to give something back, broaden my perspective and keep up my marketing skills (many people who work in large companies can find themselves working on only a relatively narrow aspect of their professional skills). When my term was finished in that role, I wanted to continue volunteering as a trustee and in particular I was keen to work with a children’s charity because of my belief in the importance of safe and healthy childhoods, and an interest in how early investment and intervention can influence better lives.

As well as the purpose I find in applying my professional skills and working with my fellow trustees to help the charity achieve its objectives, I’ve had the opportunity to learn, broaden my perspective, and add to my professional network. These insights and opportunities mean that my parallel professional and voluntary careers have complimented each other really well.

Bringing your qualities to the cause

As well as finding a cause you believe in, I’d advise new trustees to think about what you specifically bring to a team. As well as your professional skills (for example, my background is in marketing, corporate communications and corporate social responsibility) there will also be the type of person you are. Whether you’re analytical, empathetic or creative, a skilled Chair will do their best to capitalise on these personal attributes and help you give the best you can, for mutual benefit.

Our role is often at its best when it is unseen and unnoticed, but it makes a huge difference to how effective charities can be and their ability to thrive, especially in a challenging political and economic context. It's a real privilege to have this view of the organisation and to make a positive difference for the charity and the children and families we support across Scotland.