As we launch the 2022 Kent Charity Awards, our Head Judge Susan Robinson, Partner at Kreston Reeves, explains the importance of Volunteers and how their support is key to the success of a charity.
Volunteers play a crucial role in many charities both in delivering services and supporting the charities. Over the years we have seen some incredible winners of the Kent Charity Awards Volunteer of the Year.
Jonjo Heuerman BEM -was a remarkable 14 year old who dedicated much of his spare time fundraising for “The Bobby Moore Fund” for Cancer Research UK. Jonjo’s Nan passed away from bowel cancer in 2009, since then this motivated young man had completed five challenges a year, supported 100’s of events and his Just Giving page at the time of winning stood at £210,000!
Lorraine Brown – was a lady living with dementia and was a huge ambassador for people living with the illness. Lorraine volunteered her time at The Alzheimer’s Society and Medway Dementia Action Alliance educating others to reduce their fear and the stigma surrounding the disease.
Diana Hill – Victim Support – Diana had been volunteering with Victim Support for almost five and a half years and within this timeframe she had helped enable and empower around 200 service users to gain resilience and get their lives back on track following the devastating impacts of crime.
Mike Clark – Broadstairs Town Team Garden Group. Mike adopted a neglected piece of land in the town that had become a seriously neglected. He started to clear the area attracting other local residents who wanted to become involved. The site was recognised by the local council as a valuable project.
Elaine Barnett – Domestic Abuse Volunteer Support Services- Elaine uses her skills to support the team by reducing the administration they have to do, Support work is often undervalued but it is crucial to ensuring the charity runs well and is able to deliver. She also helps with fundraising and raising awareness of the work the charity does.
One group of volunteers that is often forgotten is that of trustees. The role of the trustee board is to set strategy and constructively challenge the executive. However, the level of involvement of the board will vary depending on the size of the charity, where it is on its journey and on any specific projects that are in place at a point in time. A newly started charity will require a lot of input from the trustees to ensure that the charity is having the correct impact, set up properly and following good governance.
The last 18 months has required more regular trustees’ meetings, monitoring very tight finances and /or looking at other methods of delivery in very restricted circumstances. The buck stops with the trustee board, however although a challenging role it is a very rewarding one. The judges of the Kent Charity Awards recognise the role is a very important one and over the last few years have looked to recognise the trustee of the year.
So what are we looking for?
We are looking at evidence of improvements and development of governance, leading a charity through major change or new strategies, putting plans in place to ensure sustainability. These are some examples, but you may have others. When submitting applications consider the board and maybe identify a trustee have gone over and above and nominate them for Trustee of the Year. This is an opportunity to recognise their contribution and also opportunities that raise the charity’s profile. Previous winners have included:
Pat Downing MBE – West Kent Mind
Pat was a Trustee and President of West Kent Mind. At 80 years old, Pat had been involved with the charity for 36 years and was still actively involved in the running of the centre. Pat had been involved in developing voluntary mental health services and had helped develop two supported houses and flourishing centres in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge.
Mo Tutty – had been chairman of the board of trustees at Ellenor, a charity that supports families facing terminal illness in Kent since 2010. Mo’s was extremely popular across the organisation and assists the team in delivering strategic goals, business plans, supporting charity events and developing IT strategies.
Kerry Millett – Broadstairs Town Team
Kerry’s commitment, innovation, energy and drive in setting up the Broadstairs Town Team volunteer-led initiative project in 2012 deserved recognition. Her dedication to getting the project off the ground and securing funds from the National Lottery People’s Millions and Thanet District Council, has seen Broadstairs come together to do positive things that benefit the community and visitors to the town.
George Harvey – Spadework George started as a volunteer at Spadework, then became an employee. On retiring he was invited back to be a trustee and three years later he became chairman. He was hugely instrumental in growing the charity. By developing a close relationship with trainees, most of whom he knew personally by name, has proven a lifetime reward.
Geoff Wilcox – Maidstone Mediation & reparation Scheme. Geoff became chair of the trustees at a time when all charities were struggling and some had folded due to the chronic lack of funding and resources. He quickly developed an insightful understanding of the strategy , structure, systems and staff of MMS. He has been a key player in overseeing operations ,ensuring that the needs of the services’ beneficiaries are put first and holding MMS appropriately to account regarding its legitimacy and true purpose.
Now is a good time to become a Trustee
If you are thinking about becoming a trustee now is a good time to consider getting involved. Charities are always looking for new trustees to bring fresh approaches and opinions to the board and fill skills gaps. When considering which charity to approach look at your own skills ability consider where you think you can be most of help and consider charities that you feel some empathy with. Sometimes people think that they do not have the right skills, but often a fresh way of looking at problems can benefit the charity considerably.
Don’t just apply to those charities advertising a position, if there’s a charity that you feel you can contribute to why not just contact them directly to see if they could use your services. There may not be any vacancies at the current time, but there may be something in the future. As stated earlier being a trustee, although challenge it is a very rewarding role and to quote George is has proven a lifetime reward.