Congratulations, you’re now supporting a board of trustees! I’m sure you’re asking yourself, ‘now what?’

There are three things you should prioritise. You may have covered them earlier in the process, but if not:

Firstly, you should get to know your trustees. Who is the chair? What committees does each trustee sit on? How long has each trustee been on the board? What skills does each trustee offer? And, of course, asking the CEO about each one will give you valuable insight into their characteristics and level of commitment.

Linked to the first point on knowing your trustees – it is critical to establish a relationship with the chair. The chair is the boss. The CEO reports to them and they have ultimate responsibility for how the charity is run. Find out about their personality and preferences. This will go a long way to creating a collaborative relationship.

Secondly, build a relationship with your trustees’ PAs, if they have one. This is a key step to helping with the smooth running of the board. As you know, trustees’ PAs hold their calendars, so a good relationship with each one of them will assist with scheduling and attendance at events and meetings. Why not organise a lunch with all the PAs to network and build relationships with them?

Finally, you need to be familiar with the charity’s governing document, the Articles of Association. This document will tell you how long trustees can serve on the board, the eligibility criteria, meeting etiquette and other useful . This document explains how your charity is run, so it's the most important document you have access to.

While these are the three areas to prioritise, they are just the start.

Another area to focus on is knowledge. Read the relevant Charity Commission documents. I would suggest:

These documents will help you understand the role of the trustees, your responsibilities and how you can provide the support the charity needs. You should also read past minutes for both the board and committees and investigate the induction process for new trustees.

I said there were three priority areas, but knowledge is also key! And top five sounds so much better – so my final tip is: expect to be challenged, for things to change and never be perfect. It’s the board’s role to challenge; if everything is going smoothly then something is going wrong.

That’s it! To recap, here are my five areas to focus on when you first start supporting your charity as a trustee:

  1. Get to know your fellow trustees, especially the chair
  2. Build a relationship with your trustees’ PAs
  3. Know your governing documents
  4. Read the guidance documents from the Charity Commission
  5. Expect to challenge and be challenged

Jennifer Smith is Executive Manager at Power2. She was awarded Pitman Superachiever PA of the Year 2018 and Wearethecity EA/PA Rising Star 2018.