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CSR spotlight: A bit of give and take

CSR spotlight: A bit of give and take

We round up this issue with a Q&A article focused on the value of being a trustee; the benefits gained in return on both a professional and personal basis.

Berkeley allocates five discretionary days per year to each of its consultants for pro bono consultancy work with charitable and not-for-profit (NFP) organisations. Some have chosen to use this time to be Trustees or Board members. During a roundtable, we asked four attendees to discuss the value their involvement brings and the benefits they get in return, both on a professional and personal basis.


Profile photo of Berkeley Partnership partner Juliet WhitePartner Juliet Armstrong was a Trustee at the House of St Barnabas (the House) in Soho between 2009 and 2016 when the charity transformed from being a women’s hostel into one that helps London’s homeless back into work, as well as being a members’ club right in the heart of Soho. She is now a Trustee of The Makaton Charity, that aims to increase the reach of the Makaton language programme of symbols and signs to over 1 million children, young people and adults in the UK today with learning or communication difficulties.

Profile photo of Berkeley Partnership partner Simon ClosePartner Simon Close is a current Trustee at the House of St Barnabas and is helping the charity to consolidate on its success to date and to shape its strategy for the future.




Profile photo of Berkeley Partnership consultant Jennifer JohnstonConsultant Jenny Johnston is Chair at Ugly Duck, a social enterprise that revitalises vacant buildings and underused public places to bring them into creative use. These spaces provide an incubation space for different disciplines and for communities to come together, while helping landlords and local authorities turn empty space into community assets.


Profile photo of Berkeley Partnership consultant Kate BoddingtonConsultant Kate Boddington is Chair of Governance and a Trustee at UK Youth, a national charity which empowers young people to build bright futures by equipping them with vital life skills and helps them engage in education, volunteering and employment. The charity has been operating for more than a century and supports a network of local youth organisations reaching more than 4 million young people.



Why did you become a board Trustee?

 

Jenny: I got involved because Ugly Duck’s work reflects my personal values. I work in a corporate bubble, so Ugly Duck helps connect me to the rest of the world and gives me a stronger sense of purpose.

Kate: Our roles at Berkeley are very intense. Work could fill every waking moment if we allowed it to. It is important for me to contribute to my community and I am passionate about young people and the opportunities that non-formal education brings.

Simon: The decision was very personal. I have links to the House dating back to the late 1990’s when Berkeley regularly hosted corporate events there, and I have stayed in touch ever since through colleagues, friends and family who have volunteered there. I care deeply about what the House is trying to achieve and so I jumped at the opportunity to contribute more directly as a Trustee.

Juliet: Similar reasons to Jenny, Kate and Simon but additionally I wanted some non-executive experience to round out my experience.

 

What skills do you bring to your role?

 

Juliet: Boards often tend to have people with deep industry expertise on, say, finance or HR, homelessness or animal welfare. The breadth of work we do as consultants allows us to bring some broader experience, especially around governance and change management. We also bring a lot of expertise in IT, such as digital and cyber security, which are increasingly important in the third sector. Relationships too - we can help with connections in our network. It’s been rewarding to help each other’s boards find the people or resources they need.

Simon: The skills we build as Berkeley consultants are very relevant to the needs of charity boards and senior executive teams. We are experts in helping our clients to set a clear and achievable strategy, build the capability to deliver on it and create the leadership will to make it happen. This aligns neatly with the role of a Trustee.
 

What’s the wrong way of trying to help?

 

Jenny: If you come in with a prescriptive approach and assume it will work exactly the same for a small NFP organisation as it would for a global corporation, then you could come a cropper. The methodology may remain the same, but it’s important that you work closely with an organisation to understand their practical capabilities and limitations.

Kate: A big USP for Berkeley is that we do not have a fixed methodology and that we’re prepared to tailor our approach to make changes authentic to the client and easy for them to embed. We also work a great deal client-side at Berkeley, so we bring that collaborative ethos into our NFP roles. ‘One-way’ consulting doesn’t get the best outcomes.

Juliet: Being a Trustee is a non-exec role, so you can’t get involved in the day to day management or delivery. One challenge is to ensure the organisation delivers important - often very human, societal - outcomes generally on a very limited budget compared to organisations in the private or public sector. You need to be clear on the respective roles of Trustees and the management team and how best Trustees can support the team.

Jenny: Don’t forget honesty. Organisations bring you on board for your training in the commercial world, so you may have to share some uncomfortable truths at times. You are there to provide support and guidance, and that includes constructive challenge.

Simon: You need to remain mindful that most charities don’t have access to the same level of resources as private and public-sector organisations. Pragmatism is key and, whilst being conscious of the separation between the roles of the executive team and the Board, on occasions you need to be willing to roll your sleeves up and give some hands-on support.
 

What do you take in return?

 

Kate: You get such broad business experience and commercial acumen from being involved on a board and doing top team roles. I work with a fantastic leadership team and am excited about a continued opportunity to learn and build new skills.

Jenny: Working with a charity or NFP provides huge opportunities for personal development. By gaining experience as a Board member, I now better appreciate the needs and frustrations of my client stakeholders. I’ve also developed a much healthier attitude to KPIs as a result of my work as Board Chair. Consultants are often guilty of over-using them at the start of a project, and then as project progress less and less time is devoted to them. For Ugly Duck, our KPIs equate to real changes in people’s lives. They matter. I now challenge the use of metrics more in my client work to ensure they are truly outcome focused as opposed to activity led.

Juliet: It’s possible to make a tangible difference often in a much shorter period. Change for many of our large clients at Berkeley can arrive several months or years later, so you often don’t get the same more immediate rewards. My work as a Trustee contributes enormously to the personal satisfaction I get overall in my work.

Simon: As well as the chance to be involved in such a meaningful cause, it provides the opportunity to meet new people, many of whom bring very different life experiences and perspectives that I can learn from.
 

Why does this work matter to you personally?

 

Juliet: In the earlier stages, we went through some pretty precarious times at the House – and we had to pull through together. Every time I go back, I can reflect on how the place has changed and how I’ve helped in my own small way. I’m hugely impressed with the people at the House and what they achieve every day, and obviously also of the charity’s clients. This work makes us better and more interesting consultants – I’m sure of it.

Kate: I find it immensely energising. I think it’s because you’re that more closely connected with the end beneficiary. For me, I get to engage directly with young people. I can draw a line from the work I’m doing with the leadership team through to how it’s impacting their lives. That gives me a lot of energy for the rest of the week. Client work can often be quite removed from the end customer in comparison.

Simon: I get huge amounts of satisfaction from being involved in an organisation that is making a real and visible difference to people’s lives. We hold graduation ceremonies in the House’s chapel for successful participants in our Employment Preparation Programme. This includes graduates telling their back stories and how the Programme has helped them. These are extremely moving events that provide direct and vivid feedback on the benefits of the work the House does.

Jenny: It’s impossible not to get caught up in the cause. I recently went into a strategy day workshop and then came out enthused and excited about the changes we would deliver in the community over the next six months. I don’t always get that rush in my day job!

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News and Views

CSR spotlight: A bit of give and take We round up this issue with a Q&A article focused on the value of being a trustee; the benefits gained in return on both a professional and personal basis.

Download article     Download full PDF
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