Finding the right Trustee role/Can I add value?

Long-standing Transpire Member and Coach Neil Baines-Thomas talks about his motivation for taking his first Trustee role, the recruitment process and his experiences of his first 100 days. Neil has joined the Board of Milestones Trust, a leading charity supporting adults with learning disabilities and mental health needs to live their best lives


In September 2022 I formally joined the Board of Milestones Trust. This is my first Trustee position and an important step in building my own portfolio NED career.  I have worked as a volunteer management consultant and CEO mentor with Cranfield Trust for some time. I was keen to build on this experience, perhaps by supporting a charity in more of a permanent capacity. A colleague and Transpire Member approached me in the summer to ask if I was interested in speaking to an existing Milestones Trustee (and Transpire Speaker). I jumped at the opportunity!

Recruitment Process

That was the start of an interesting journey which after my initial conversation included a further 4 interview stages. With the Chair of Trustees, other Trustees, Executive team members and finally with services users – people who Milestones has helped.

Having the opportunity to not only meet service users but giving them the opportunity to interview a trustee was fantastic. Incredibly insightful and really struck a chord with my own values.  I firmly believe that a Non-Executive Director (NED) or Trustee should have an understanding of how the organisation’s purpose is lived and played out.  Therefore hearing at first hand service users’ problems and challenges and how Milestones has helped them was particularly enlightening.

The right role for me/Could I add value?

To help me through the process felt I needed a framework or structure  to help me decide if Milestones was right for me and whether I could add some value to them. Therefore I posed myself some questions that served well as a sense check, namely:

  • Why do I want to be a trustee of Milestones? Why them?
  • How does the purpose of the charity align with my core values?
  • What product or skills do I bring into the board room?
  • Why would they want to appoint me?
  • How can I help them achieve what they want/need to do?
  • What are their challenges? Are these in my field of expertise?
  • What will I learn? What do I feel I need to learn?
  • What is the time commitment? Can I give the role sufficient the time and consideration?
  • Where are the board meetings held?

These questions proved invaluable in reaching my decision. It’s also fair to add that I still ask myself some of these questions, and will probably continue to do so.

What has the first few weeks looked like?

I am very aware I am still in my induction period, and will continue to be for some months, as I feel I need to really understand the issues. Milestones have put together a comprehensive programme including; requirements of a trustee, safeguarding as well meetings with the chair and CEO.  In addition I am attending each of the committee meetings in order to gain an understanding of the issues before they reach the board, plus attend the strategy day next month.  I have already decided to permanently join the Governance & Risk and Finance committees.

Early in the new year I will start to visit the supported living service sites to meet staff and service users alike which for me is key, as I don’t feel I can effectively fulfil my duties as a trustee without that understanding.

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A diagnostic tool based on a competency framework developed specifically for Transpire, and focusing on the behaviors exhibited by top performing Board Members. Your Transpire Coach discusses the outputs from this benchmarking exercise with you, together with your Board Career Plan, to agree on a personal development pathway.