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blog • Resource


Megan Raybould

28 July 2020

This week we’ve been researching how to showcase your skills and experience if you’ve not had a trustee role before.

What should I be showcasing in my application?

First things first,  why are you a good fit for that organisation?

Reach volunteering explains:

Charities are usually looking for people who can fit into their culture. Make use of relevant and transferable abilities and personal experiences. This is where any personal research you have done and any preliminary conversations you have had will make you stand out.

Trustee vacancies are aligned to charity objectives and you may find as you write about your professional experience that it doesn’t quite fit the job description… don’t worry though! Make your cover letter unique by highlighting your transferable skills from your workplace along with your personal experience, to show what you would bring to the role.

Read the full blog and examples of the above here.

What skills are relevant to showcase?

This will depend on the role you are applying for within the board, and the board/ charity itself.

Common skills you could highlight include:

  • Communication (both written and verbal)
  • Research
  • Team work
  • Attention to detail
  • Decision making

These are all really important skills and you don’t need to have been a trustee before to show you’re good at them. I developed my research skills while studying and my communication skills are evidenced in a previous voluntary role I’ve had.

If the trustee role has a clear role description with skills outlined, you should make sure to clearly address these in your application. You could even mark them as titles, so whoever is reading the application is really clear how you’ve matched the specification. This is a stylistic thing, so write it however feels best to you.

I’ve not been a trustee before so what sort of experiences can I reference?

We gain skills and experience all the time! Just because it’s not been in a trustee role, doesn’t mean it’s not relevant.

  • School, college or university e.g. research projects, speaking in assemblies, leading a team, overcoming challenges and being persistent.
  • Hobbies and clubs you’re part of e.g. organising events, teamwork playing sports, balancing a busy schedule
  • Volunteering e.g. fundraising, organising events, working with people with different opinions, showing dedication or commitment.
  • Other responsibilities -these can be really valuable too e.g.  care responsibilities, parenting, travel, wedding organising. Whatever your life experiences are they’ll be useful things to unpick and pull out.
  • Social media e.g. developing a following online, writing blogs, posts or creating images to use on Twitter/ Instagram.
  • Lived experiences - If the charity works on a topic you’ve had lived experience of this may mean you have more opinions on the topic and they may well be really useful. You can read Jonathan’s spotlight story where he mentions this, here. Jonathan is a trustee for Dyspraxia Foundation and is one of three members of the board of trustees who has Dyspraxia. Jonathan explains that he’s not just there for his lived experience and has lots to offer. In addition, he is able to speak about his opinion as someone who may be impacted by the work they’re doing.

Is it useful to do a skills analysis?

It can be useful to do an analysis of what skills you have before you apply for a trustee role.

Day Job have have written questions to help you start analysing the skills you have and what you can offer. You can read them here.

They recommend that you should start off by creating a list on a piece of paper of what you believe you are good at. Do this by reviewing your current and previous jobs and listing particular career skills you have gained, put them under different topic headings.

List what you have achieved to date and in particular those points you feel you did well in, can demonstrate, give examples of and prove.

Here’s another example of how you could do a skills analysis:

  • Put all the things you’re good at,  - skills, achievements and anything that you've ever done onto post-it notes (one example on each post-it).
  • Take a BIG break.
  • Write a big list of the skills required for the Trusteeship you're interested in. Write them one at a time, spread out  on a big piece of paper.
  • Stick the post-it notes on the sheet under the skill it fits with best - you'll very quickly see where you're qualified and what you can showcase.
  • This might also show you areas and skills for development. That’s not a bad thing and a good board should make sure you're comfortable to share these things and help you develop.

Finally, trustee boards often do skills audits themselves. You could use a template trustee skills audit to help you see what sort of skills trustee boards are looking at and how you match up. Here's an example from Reach volunteering that trustee boards often use.

I’d also really recommend keeping track of key achievements throughout your career, and in volunteering roles, so you can showcase these easily when you apply for new roles. Sometimes we can forget the impressive things we’ve done or the detail we need to evidence them. For example, if you’re part of organising an event and attendance went up from 20 to 120 - keep a note of that detail!

You can write a general list or write a list of common headings (e.g. project management, decision making, attention to detail) and categorise your experiences as you go.

What else should I reflect on?

Job Hunt, write about other good questions to consider before writing your cover letter and adapting your CV for a trustee role (or a job application). The blog is focused on job hunting, as you can imagine, but it’s useful to think about before applying to a trustee role too. You can read their full blog here

They suggest the key things to reflect on are:

  • Values
  • Interests
  • Skills Inventory
  • Strengths
  • Behavioural and Communication Style
  • Personal brand - what differentiates you from other applicants?
  • Motivators
  • Leadership Type or Profile
  • Work-Life Balance and preferred lifestyle

Values: It’s important to show how your values match the charity you want to be a trustee for. If they don’t, you might not be happy in that role anyway.

You could consider which values are the most important to you and what motivates you.   Then, rank them in order of importance. Not only will this help you showcase how you’re a good fit for a charity, but it’ll help you in your search to find the right charity and trustee role.

Motivators: What are the tasks and related skills that give you the greatest satisfaction? For example, do you like to use a broad variety of skills or focus on one thing? Once you’ve reflected on these things, you’ll see if they match up to a trustee role description and show it off!

Should I exaggerate what I’ve done?

Tempting as it may be, being honest about what you’ve been involved in and what you think your skills are will be an important part in finding a trustee role that suits you and that you enjoy.

A good trustee board will have diverse voices in the room. That means that they’ll need people with different mindsets, skills, experiences and backgrounds. If you’re honest about what you’ve done, what you think you can offer and what you think about the cause they’re working on - it’s more likely you’ll find a good match.

That doesn’t mean you need to be shy! If you did something, take the credit. You smashed it!

What should I include in my cover letter about a trustee role?

Reach volunteering have written a great blog to help you with this. Read it here.

You can also read an example cover letter written by LiveCareer here.

The essentials that you’ll want to include in your cover letter are:

  • Why you want to be a trustee there. What about the cause and organisation appeals to you?
  • How you fit with the organisation. Are your values the same? Are the ways you like to work a good fit? What’s your appetite for risk and does it match theirs?
  • How you’ll be able to contribute to the goals of the organisation. What skills, abilities and experiences do you have that are relevant?

The 1st and 2nd point are more about how you fit with the organisation than what experience you’ve had. Showing passion, interest and commitment is a hugely important part of your application being a success.

CassieAnthony and Rebecca are all young trustees and they just how important being committed is to your trustee application:

CassieWhen I’ve taken part in recruitment before, I look for someone that has read our strategy and been able to pull out our values (and evidence that they live the values of the organisation).

AnthonyShowing that you share the same values as the organisation is a really good start. On our board when we recruit trustees we’re looking for people who care about the work we do and the community we support.

Sometimes the organisation might say they’re looking for a trustee with a certain skill (finance, fundraising, PR etc) so if they do this you can definitely highlight how your skill set matches what they’re looking for.

RebeccaI would say it depends on the Trustee position itself firstly, as some will be quite general and some more specific.I'm a Trustee Secretary, so for me it was important to focus on my written skills, my ability to take minutes, organisational skills etc. If it's a more general Trustee role (and also this is applicable for all Trustee roles) it would be good to give an example of experience in governance, or showing responsibility; confidentiality; leadership; management skills - those sort of things.

I completely agree with Anthony on values, probably the most important is to align with the organisation, and be passionate and interested in what they do. Show in the cover letter that you have done your research about them, that will really help. Like Cassie said, if you have read the Business Plan or strategy that will be really impressive!

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