Last week at a Q&A organised by Museums Showoff (#museums2034), the question came up of why more early-career museum professionals don’t become trustees of independent museums.
It seemed like many of the people at the event were interested in the idea of becoming a trustee, but weren’t sure about whether they had the right skills, how to get started or whether they would be wanted. Yet many museums would benefit from early-career professionals joining their boards: they are usually extremely well qualified and often have several years paid and unpaid work experience in a range of museums. They specialise in a range of areas including curatorial, engagement and education. They are passionate, willing to commit time and to learn and would certainly help diversify the age profile of many museums’ boards.
I hope more museums would like to consider early-career museum professionals for their boards. Please contact us to advertise on AIM’s Trustee Portal if you are looking for new Trustees.
If you are an early-career museum professional and you would like to find a Trustee position, here are some suggestions of how to get started.
1. Is this what I really want to do?
If you haven’t thought about being a Trustee before you may find it useful to read AIM’s Success Guide for Good Governance. This gives a good overview of the work of a Board of Trustees in different size organisations.
Here are a range of articles giving different perspectives on being a young trustee, although many of the early career museum professionals are older than the 16-24 age range many of these articles are discussing, and those coming to museums as a second career can be much older and bring extremely valuable experience and perspectives from their earlier careers.
- Slightly old article (the specific opportunities it mentions may not be available now) but there is a usual checklist of things to consider before becoming a charity trustee at the end of the article. http://www.trustees-unlimited.co.uk/index.php/press-media/94-young-charity-trustees-what-you-need-to-know
- Short blog about young people as Trustees with links to other guidance and opportunities. http://trusteesweek.blogspot.co.uk/p/young-trustees.html
- One young trustee’s experience of finding a trustee role and quickly becoming vice-chair of a national charity: http://trusteesweek.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/angus-hannah-trustee-vice-chair-of.html?spref=tw
- Another article with some useful information. http://www.guardian.co.uk/voluntary-sector-network/2011/nov/02/benefits-young-trustee
2. Prepare yourself
There is lots of support and guidance for trustees about how to fulfil their role. Starting to look at this whilst you are looking for a trustee position will help you show that you understand the role and responsibilities and allow you to be more specific about how you could help a museum as a trustee.
- The Charity Commission publishes lots of guidance about trustees’ responsibilities but the first thing to read is ‘The Essential Trustee’: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-essential-trustee-what-you-need-to-know-cc3
- You can also subscribe to www.trusteesweek.blogspot.co.uk to get regular newsletters about trustee issues.
- Alex Swallow has published these tips for young people wanting to be Trustees or for charities wishing to recruit young people to their boards. https://alexswallow.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/how-to-become-a-young-trustee/ If that link doesn’t work try alexswallow.com/blog/ where his blog is moving to shortly.
3. Find a museum
We would always recommend trustees look for an organisation or museum that they feel passionately about. Being a trustee is a big time commitment and you need to be a strong advocate for your organisation, so you need to feel that what it does is really important to you.
- There are a range of sites where trustee vacancies are advertised, although for museums the main one is AIM’s Trustee Portal.
- You might like to consider becoming a trustee of another type of charity though. Perspectives from outside the museum sector can be very helpful in the ‘day job’. This blog has links to many places where trustee positions are advertised. http://trusteesweek.blogspot.co.uk/p/becoming-trustee.html
Many people find trustee positions through their networks though. See if you know any of the existing Trustees or senior staff of the museums you are interested in and talk to them about where the organisation is going. You have to let it be known that you are interested in becoming a Trustee as unfortunately people may assume that if you are young you are not. You can also talk to people who act as museum mentors or to Museum Development Officers and ask if they know any museums where your skills might be useful. Offering to help the museum with a particular piece of work, where you have relevant skills, can be a good way of getting to know them better before broaching the subject of becoming a trustee.
- There is a LinkedIn group for Young Charity Trustees.
- This link then links to all the pieces about young trustees on the TrusteesWeek blog.