Our Lab Trustees-in-Training describe their experiences of this 12-month Board development programme, and offer some insight and advice for other organisations trying something similar.
What is a Trustee-in-Training?
A year ago the Lab made an exciting step towards tackling the age-old challenge of Board diversity by launching our inaugural Trustee-in-Training programme. The programme is a way to continue to embed the Lab’s principles of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice even further into our DNA.
The result was the recruitment of the four of us as Trustees-in-Training (‘TinTs’). We became observers on the Lab’s Board and sub-committees, and have benefitted from a varied programme of training, mentoring and support. The TinTs are people who are passionate about the work of the Lab and who have a lot to offer but don’t yet have the level of experience typically expected of a fully-fledged trustee at an established charity like the Lab. The aim was also to bring onto the Board people from diverse backgrounds, who could offer a fresh perspective to the Lab in return.
Below we describe our experience.
“In my day job I work at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on social impact investment policy. For some time I have wanted to contribute to the impactful finance space through volunteering, too. I came upon the TinT programme when I was looking for my first charity trustee position. Going through a few initial recruitment processes, I quickly started to feel that I didn’t bring the amount of experience which was expected – including the experience of having already been a trustee elsewhere, which is tricky when you’re looking for your first gig!
“The TinT programme felt like a good fit and from the outset the thing I really noticed was how the Lab’s values came through every step of the way. From the advertisement, through the recruitment process, onboarding and throughout the entire year, I felt the Lab was totally committed to giving us TinTs the best experience and making us feel welcomed, supported and listened to.
“I got the most out of attending the Board meetings and being able to observe and take in how the fantastic Board interact with the Lab’s programmes, staff, and each other. I learned a lot about how a highly efficient Board operates by seeing how decisions are made and the kinds of discussions that are needed to get there. Just as valuable were the regular mentoring sessions with my mentor Kit, who as Chair of the Board gave me a hugely generous amount of his time and insight.”
“The Trustee-in-Training programme was a great initiative to help get a better understanding on how being a trustee works. As someone who lacked experience and had little knowledge of the practicalities of serving as a trustee, the Finance Innovation Lab were incredibly supportive and helpful in demystifying the process and experience.
“Highlights for me included having a dedicated mentor, David – who was also a longstanding member of the Board – answer all of my questions and connect with me away from the meetings to discuss any themes or thoughts I had throughout the programme. I also enjoyed being able to engage with the Board papers, and the wider team at the Lab, in order to really connect with the great work the organisation is doing. Lastly, having other Trustees-in-Training on the programme was a great mini community, and also reassurance that there are others who are equally as interested in participating at a similar personal and professional level to me. I’d definitely recommend this programme, both for individuals who are looking to get more involved on Boards, and organisations looking to support new and diverse individuals with getting started.”
“Serving as a Trustee has been a goal of mine for a long time, but always felt very out of reach. The Lab’s TinT programme was an incredible opportunity to learn what it really means to be an effective Board member, while building confidence in a low-stakes environment. I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with various Boards through my career in high-value fundraising, but knew it was a big jump to take on a Trustee position myself. While researching Trustee vacancies, I came across the Lab, and it’s been a brilliant experience from start to finish.
“From the anonymised recruitment process, to discussions surrounding the Lab’s strong remuneration package, and the warm and inclusive atmosphere at meetings, even online, I was bowled over by how each and every person I interacted with lived the Lab’s values – ambition, collaboration and empowerment – through and through.
“The highlight for me was observing and participating in Board and sub-committee meetings, engaging with a group of very experienced, creative and passionate individuals, and seeing strategic thinking in action. I loved digging into things which were familiar to me, such as fundraising and communications, but gained most from areas that I had little to no experience in – such as seeing how the Lab approaches high-level decision-making and risk management.
“I am incredibly grateful to everyone at the Lab, particularly my mentor Jesse (Lab CEO), for the time invested in the programme. They’re a small team doing big things, yet still dedicated a lot of resource to ensuring we had a good experience – THANK YOU!”
For next time
And we hope there is a next time!
As our year as TinTs draws to a close, we’ve done a lot of reflecting to help the Lab understand how the programme has worked for us and what could be improved even further in future.
The main recommendation from all of us would be to ensure that TinTs have plenty of opportunity to give as well as to take – the reason we are interested in volunteering in the first place is that we want to support causes we care about. While we appreciate all the support, we also want to be able to find ways to contribute to the Lab’s amazing work.
Given much of the programme took place during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, it’s not surprising that we’d all have appreciated more opportunities to engage with the Lab (the Board and the staff) in person, both professionally and in a social setting, particularly early on to help build relationships.
For others considering doing something similar we’d all 100% recommend it – we have had a brilliant and fulfilling experience. We’d like to extend another big thank you to the Lab Board and staff who made the programme happen, particularly Rebecca, Nana and Yvonne, and each of our mentors – Katie, Jesse, Kit, David and Mikael.