I made the very significant decision to become a charity Trustee whilst resting up during a period of gardening leave in late 2018. I’d just celebrated a very significant birthday and my professional life felt extremely shallow. I knew I had lots more to offer but it was difficult to diversify in the staffing industry that I inhabited as firstly it’s an extremely demanding way to earn a living and secondly its actually quite simple industry, not particularly complex and not intellectually demanding. I absolutely don’t mean that negatively, it’s a beautifully simple industry which explains why so many people create recruitment businesses.  I’d just left an emerging challenger brand that we’d scaled quite quickly and I was about to join a new one, with similar aspirations and ambitions. Fortunately, my new MD was very encouraging, so I started to network and have conversations. I owe him a debt of gratitude for that, the job didn’t work out, but I made a friend, he was very supportive.  

 

I knew I wanted to work with young people and in the dementia space, which are both areas of personal interest.  My daughter had been involved with a well-funded youth charity from the age of eleven and my father had vascular dementia. The children’s charity offered my daughter unrivalled opportunities to evolve and travel as a child then young adult but I felt their reach was a little narrow and I decided I actually wanted to help young people in our more challenging communities. As for dementia we had an absolutely horrendous time with my dad, vascular dementia is an extremely vicious disease and family experiences differ all over the UK due to funding, approach and resources. I decided I wanted to try and help change things a little and if I could help just one family with the transition I’d have succeeded in what I wanted to do.  

 

By good fortune (I saw something on LinkedIn) I very quickly joined the board at NE Youth and and then quickly joined the board of Dementia Matters (DM) very soon after, it was a combination of good fortune and I suppose having a set of skills that appealed to both organisations at that specific time. Whilst staffing and recruitment is a fairly simple industry it breeds tenacious, resilient, competitive and talented people who can sell, network, easily mingle and influence. Recruiters often (wrongly) get a bad press but they are extremely gifted people who develop a robustness and work ethic rarely seen in other more comfortable vocations. Recruitment is as tough as it gets, even if they are quite simple businesses to run.

 

I recall my interview at DM extremely fondly. I met with Lee Ali, then acting chair and his colleague Lisa, a similarly robust HR Director, who proceeded to give me a bit of a grilling. I’m glad they did, as it really opened my eyes to what the role of a trustee involved and my motivation was challenged several times. I’d had such a horrendous experience whilst on my father’s dementia journey that I think my genuine passion and desire to put something back was deemed sincere and I was thrilled to be offered a Trusteeship.

 

I am a new and inexperienced Trustee, but it is quite clear now, a year or so into my Trustee journey, that there are several variations of the role. Some people like to put a couple on their CV, it exacerbates personal development, helps build c-suite networks and can provide a litany of free dinners and lunches. It is with regret that neither NE Youth or DM offer such opportunities as these are hands-on working roles that are extremely demanding of your spare time, some of your money, a lot of your energy, some of your holiday allowance and most recently, during the pandemic, a lot of your sleep. To be fair I’d not have it any other way, I have learnt more about people, finance, legislation, compliance, regulatory matters, funding, balance sheets and risk in a year than I had in 27 (twenty-seven) years in recruitment. My professional life, once shallow, is now extremely fulfilled and rewarding and it is the best thing I’ve ever done.

 

On the subject of COVID-19 and this dreadful pandemic I thought I’d highlight just how demanding it can be. Out of necessity we moved to weekly tele-boards, which usually last about 90 minutes, these are extremely demanding, and for the first month were done over the phone until we moved to Teams. I am also on the Care Committee, which we merged with Risk, so that meant another meeting in the same week discussing some staggeringly complex issues around compliance, and sadly, the potential death of residents and the enforced closure of some of our facilities. We also had to look at sourcing of PPE, replacing withdrawn funding and making sure the books balanced and the 2021 budget was achievable. I’d never been involved at such a micro level before and it was a very steep learning curve. Our two finance trustees and Finance Manager worked tirelessly on the latter, something the other trustees and SMT really appreciate. Their hard work ensures there will be a DM in years to come. I won’t lie, I feel a little guilty, since joining DM my skills haven’t been fully utilised yet, we moved swiftly from budget to pandemic then back to budget so the accountants and lawyers on the board took centre stage. However, now that things are more settled and ever so gradually returning to a new form of normal the commercially focussed trustees will be relied upon to drive revenues, assist fundraising and create online events until we can all get back in a room together. I cant wait, it will be fun and all for a wonderful cause.   

 

I’d urge anyone reading to seriously consider joining an organisation as a trustee, it adds depth to your character and allows you to contribute and put something back into the community. We are critical friends, helping management teams do their superb work.

David Lovenbury

Trustee

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