What does a Trustee do? What do Trustees look like?

This week is Trustees’ Week, giving us the opportunity to celebrate and showcase all that trustees do.

JIGSAW Thornbury has 7 trustees who are responsible for making sure we deliver our vision – that children and young people with additional needs or disabilities and their families are empowered to connect, fit in, and thrive as themselves. Our role as trustees is to make decisions that will enable us to achieve this vision, and to empower staff and volunteer teams to make decisions on a day-to-day basis.

A year ago, when I was about 6 weeks into being a trustee, that definition wouldn’t have told me much about what a trustee actually does and would have prompted the stereotypical image of what a trustee looks like (i.e. not like me!). It’s no secret as to why this stereotype exists – 1 in 12 trustees are called John or David and only 3% of trustees are under 30 – but being a trustee for JIGSAW Thornbury has changed my perspective of trusteeship and given me the confidence to embrace my uniqueness as a young, female Chair of Trustees.

So, here’s what I can tell you about being a JIGSAW Thornbury trustee…

The Board of Trustees work together to make decisions about how JIGSAW is run, the services we offer, and the impact we aim to have. When we need to make a decision, each trustee gets a vote. At least 75% of us need to be in agreement for the decision to be passed. We use our own personal skills and experience to form our vote and always consider factors like; what would happen if things didn’t go to plan, the positive impact if things do go to plan, the views of the people our decision will affect, and how much things cost. Everyone will have an opinion, but the decisions we make are based on weighing up the pros and cons for JIGSAW, so we leave our own personal preferences at the door.

Recently I was on a training course where they asked us to note down some of the significant decisions we had made in the last few years. There was no definition of what ‘significant’ looked like, which I think was intentional to get us to consider what makes a decision significant for us personally. I had some that matched other people in the group, like deciding to get a dog. Most of the others on my list were quite unique though, like deciding the best place for JIGSAW’s new home when our previous venue got condemned, so that our families and the local community could benefit from a welcoming space in the heart of Thornbury.

When I looked down the list of my significant decisions, I noticed some common themes that applied to all of them, whether they were personal decisions or ones I had made as a trustee. Each of them had lots of things that could go wrong, they were risky decisions where it would be really bad if things didn’t go to plan. They were also all decisions where if things did go to plan, the positive impact would be huge.

The next question in the course workbook was ‘What is the best decision you have ever made?’  I immediately wrote ‘Becoming Chair of Trustees for JIGSAW’, and then I looked up to see Albus, my dog, wagging his tail and smiling at me as if to say ‘What about me? Have you seen how cute I am?!’, so I quickly changed my answer to ‘Getting a dog’.

People make decisions every day, we all have our own definition of what makes a decision significant, and we all have some decisions that have turned out better than others. A large part of what a trustee does is make significant decisions. JIGSAW has 7 trustees to make sure we have a range of perspectives feeding into decision-making so that we can be confident we make the best decisions for JIGSAW, that we keep the charity and all the people involved safe and benefit the families we support as much as possible.

The theme for Trustees’ Week this year is ‘Encouraging different perspectives’. In my experience, a JIGSAW trustee is someone who brings a different perspective and actively listens to other people’s perspectives to shape the decisions we make. We are all empowered individuals and compassionate team players, but most importantly we are a best friend who will always go out of our way to deliver the vision we have set out to achieve, because we genuinely care about the people involved in JIGSAW.

If you’re wondering what we physically look like… well, that is something for each trustee to define for themselves. Covering myself in face paint and hop, skipping, and jumping around the Mundy Playing Fields to fundraise for JIGSAW is one of my top moments for embracing what I want to look like as a trustee.

Hattie Clayton is JIGSAW Chair of Trustees