Trustee Stories

Read first hand accounts of what it's like being a charity trustee. If your charity has any trustee vacancies, or if you'd like to become a charity trustee, you can find out more at the Trustees' Week website.

Rhiannon McIntyre has been a trustee of the Mamie Martin Fund (MMF) since 2005, and became Treasurer of the charity shortly after. MMF was founded by Rhiannon's grandparents in 1993, in memory of her great-grandmother, the wife of a Scottish missionary in Malawi in the 1920's.

Rhiannon says:

'Mamie Martin was a teacher in Scotland, and passionate about helping to educate the girls she met in Malawi, who at that time were not able to go to school. Sadly, she died in Malawi when my grandmother was just 18 months old. Returning to Malawi in the early 1990's, my gran found that the situation for girls' education had not changed much since her mother had been alive. Cultural differences meant that boys were regarded as more important, and so many families gave priority to the education of their sons over their daughters. Since secondary education isn't free in Malawi, it's still common today for girls to drop out of school if their families cannot afford to pay their fees. The aim of MMF is that no girl who has secured a place at secondary school should have to give it up due to poverty. The fund works in partnership with the Synod of Livingstonia (CCAP) in the northern region of Malawi, to support the education of around 150 girls each year.

'I've been involved in MMF since it began, informally volunteering at fundraising events as a child, then performing at them as a music student. I decided to become more involved in the management of the fund by becoming a trustee once I'd graduated from university. Having studied performing arts rather than an academic subject, and at that time pursuing a career as a freelance musician, it was great to be able to use parts of my brain which had been lying dormant since I finished my own secondary education! I'd been good at maths when at school, and had almost chosen to study accountancy at university, but chose the creative path instead. When I first joined the committee I didn't know anything about charity finance, or indeed all that much about international development, but I can now confidently say that I do! Being treasurer of MMF has taught me a lot, but I have also brought a lot to the charity. I was 23 years old when I became a trustee, and with no disrespect to my fellow trustees, I brought the average age of the membership down considerably! What I lacked in knowledge about Malawi and how the world works, I made up for in enthusiasm, a fresh perspective and an understanding of computers and marketing.

'Since joining MMF, I have found the post of treasurer to be very rewarding. I was able to visit Malawi in 2009 in an official capacity, and I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity as I not only visited the place where my grandmother was born and my great-grandmother is buried, but I also met many of the girls who are supported by the charity. Meeting these enthusiastic and vibrant young women reminded me why MMF is so important, and made all the hours I spend staring at spreadsheets and bank statements worthwhile. I had always thought that people who say visiting a developing country changes your life are a bit patronising, but its true - visiting Malawi did change my life. It changed my perception of what a developing country is like. It changed my attitude to work and made me wish I could go back to school and take my studies more seriously. And most importantly, it made me realise how vital the work that the Mamie Martin Fund does is to the women of Malawi, and made me determined to carry on the legacy of my great-grandmother by making sure that MMF is managed efficiently.

'For those considering becoming a trustee, I would wholeheartedly recommend it, and would say that you shouldn't worry about whether you're qualified enough, or whether you have enough life experience to make a difference. As long as you care about the cause and are willing to dedicate time and energy, then go for it! Being a trustee isn't always easy, but you'll learn a lot and you'll make a difference to at least one person's life, and probably a lot more than you'll ever realise.

Liz Duncan is a trustee of a new charity, For Carnoustie, a charity shop that works as a hub to the local community. Liz has previously been a trustee of several charities but particularly wanted to support this local initiative when she was made aware of it. Since joining the Board of Trustees, Liz has played a full part in generating funds that have been awarded to a range of local groups. These include the Carnoustie Scouts, to pay for grass sledges and a branded gazebo; and Carnoustie Befrienders, to help with transport costs and pay for a Christmas meal for the over-60. Money awarded also paid for new strips and equipment for the Carnoustie Football Academy, a defibrillator for 1st Responders and music therapy for children with special needs.

Liz says:

'I became a trustee of the charity as I knew the couple who set it up. Their dream was to help the community and they approached several local figures to discuss their idea and invite them to form the Board of Trustees for what became a new charity.

'The charity itself is a charity shop, with all the money it raises going back into the local community. We opened our doors on 14 January 2012 and on 25 October at our first presentation night; we awarded a total of £19,500 to local groups. There were gasps of disbelief at the event when we announced how much we were giving. That money will bring joy to so many faces and it's a wonderful feeling to know that you've been part of that.

'The charity shop has become the hub of Carnoustie, and is well supported because we keep prices low to help struggling families make ends meet. All the trustees work well together. We work hard, but every one of us is thrilled to be awarding such substantial sums to local groups. To anyone thinking about becoming a charity trustee, don't think about it - just do it! The rewards are many and you will be using your experience of your work or your life to the advantage of others.'

Susan Bruce is a trustee of Youthlink Dundee, a charity that has provided help and support to vulnerable and disadvantaged children in the city for 30 years. The charity has two projects. The 1-to-1 befriending service supports the needs of isolated and disadvantaged children on an individual basis, by providing fun activities and experiences with volunteer befrienders. The 'Kids Unlimited' group offers activities to children living in households where family members suffer from ill-health or disability; these children have often taken on the role of carer and thereby miss out on normal childhood experiences.

Susan says:

I have been a Trustee for the last three and a half years and became aware of the charity's need for Trustees through a circular sent round my workplace. I was lucky enough to have had a very secure home life and childhood, with plenty of support and encouragement from adults who took the time to get involved with all the clubs and groups that just couldn't run without volunteers. I've experienced similar levels of commitment in the activities my son is now involved in, but I know that not every child is so lucky. I felt that being a Trustee would be my chance to give something back and help support those children for whom a stable home life and childhood may not be the norm.

'I sit on the Board of Trustees, which normally consists of attending one meeting every two months. I help out with fundraising activities when I can, and also provide health and safety advice to the organisation, as required, in my free time. I can honestly say that I get far more back, in terms of knowing that I'm helping, than I put in. Volunteering needn't be onerous and even a small effort can make a big difference for a charity.'

Jim Milne joined the Brechin Youth Project in 2002, shortly after the charity opened The Attic, a youth drop-in centre in the heart of the local community. He became a trustee after taking early retirement from his job as engineering manager at a pharmaceutical company.

Jim says:

'I used my skills to organise contractors to carry out work on the centre, and then led a small team of volunteers to do all the other much needed jobs at little cost. My main reason for becoming involved was simply to put something back into the local community. Having just taken early retirement, I felt that I had time and skills to contribute, but from a personal perspective I also wanted new challenge.

'With the charity now in its tenth year, the greatest satisfaction for me is working with the young people as part of a team and contributing to their education and well being. A key aspect of my role is fundraising, which in itself is an even greater challenge, but again using the skills I gained in my previous role, this has been achieved with some success.

'Young people are much maligned in some quarters, but if people were to work with them on a day to day basis they would very quickly see a different picture. Young people are receptive to good advice, which sadly for many is not forthcoming at home. Over the years we've introduced many young people to volunteering, giving them a basic work ethic, with many of them using that experience at interviews leading to full-time employment.

'The advice I would give to anyone considering becoming a Trustee it would be that all the skills and knowledge you've picked up in your working and everyday life is valuable, but you may not realise this. A whole host of other people out there, who may not be as fortunate, would benefit from your time and effort. But perhaps the greatest benefactor would be yourself.'

Julia Romanes is a trustee of the Borders Animal Welfare Association (BAWA), a role she has held for the past seven years. BAWA runs an animal rescue service in the Scottish Borders, mainly for dogs, cats and small animals. Established over 35 years ago, the charity is run by volunteers. It provides individually tailored care for each of its animals, helping them resolve any behavioural or health problems and go on to have a happier life with a caring family. In the last six years, the charity has rehomed over 1,500 animals.

Julia says:

'At the time I joined BAWA, I was still working full time in the NHS. I wanted to become part of the local community and give something back. I've always loved dogs and cared about the welfare of animals, but with working full time I never got round to doing anything constructive about it. With BAWA I felt that a lot of the overhead costs were supported by volunteers from the local community, and the money was being focused at direct care for the animals, so I wanted to help that continue and develop.

'The charity is still run by a volunteer committee and is looking to the future. More and more cats and dogs in particular need our help, and it's so satisfying to find them new homes. We also help the local community by providing employment for five part time staff and work experience for many school children. We give voluntary employment experience for those looking to return to work after a long period of unemployment and hands-on experience and training for animal care students at a local college as well as undergraduate veterinary students. We also provide experience for those with various learning disabilities to help them find work in the future, and improve their present quality of life.

'For anyone thinking of becoming a Trustee, I would say find out as much as possible about the charity you're considering joining and the work they do, to make sure that it fits with how you wish to spend your voluntary time what you have to offer. Understand that even as a volunteer, you are making a commitment that you need to fulfil - so don't overstretch yourself at the beginning or you may later get fed up with it. And be there for the long term - to help the charity grow.'

Sandy Argo is a trustee of Mental Health Aberdeen (MHA), a role he has held since 2000 after joining the charity as a recently-retired company director. Since joining MHA, Sandy has focused on raising the charity's public profile through various initiatives, most recently a public Songs of Praise event to celebrate World Mental Health Week , held in Aberdeen's Union Terrace Gardens and attracting over 400 people.

Sandy says:

'I took on the role as I wasn't prepared to sit at home feeling sorry for myself in retirement! I was encouraged to become involved with MHA by one of the project managers -I was impressed at just how many volunteers were working in the charity's projects. To formulate a change in the general public's perception is a massive undertaking and requires more education, especially for our young people. Undoubtedly the area of mental ill-health is not so widely understood, nor do many people wish to contemplate it. It still carries enormous stigma in today's thinking, and this really must be reduced. We need to increase public education and campaigning in this area so that this vital part of daily living - mental well-being - is given much more consideration in our lives.

'In some ways I have always been involved with voluntary work, having been a volunteer organist and choirmaster at Middlefield Church, Aberdeen, for over 30 years. This was located in an area of Aberdeen where I witnessed much community deprivation and hardship. My advice to anyone contemplating becoming a volunteer or trustee of a charity is to seriously consider and embrace it. Realise the huge social reward there is all round, both to you as a trustee providing freely of your skills and to the public at large - especially those who need even more of our compassion and support.'

Jenny Lowe is a trustee of two Edinburgh charities - the Multi-Cultural Family Base (MCFB) and Home Start Leith and North East Edinburgh (HSLNEE). Aged 75, Jenny has been a trustee at MCFB for nine years and at HSLNEE for twelve. MCFB works to enhance the well being and life opportunities of vulnerable children and their families and of those from minority communities across the city. HSLNEE trains volunteers who are already parents, to support families with at least one child under the age of five years. Jenny carries out administrative tasks at HSLNEE and prepares funding applications at MCFB, as well as minute-taking, policy revision and legal research at both charities.

Jenny says:

'My involvement started after retirement, when I was looking for something useful to do. The fact that I am a trustee at both these organisations is due in no small part to the fact that they evolved from the same umbrella organisation, now closed.

'I find it immensely satisfying to create informative sets of minutes and draft the agendas. I like to think that both charities benefit from my input. Over the past few years, I've learned a lot about the problems that confront many families today and this has made me more understanding. Both charities have benefited from the time I have at my disposal and my wish to be an active trustee. My advice to someone thinking about such a role is that you will be surprised at how much you can contribute.'

Danielle Macleod is a Trustee of Safe Space, a charity that provides free and confidential support services for male and female survivors of sexual abuse from the age of 12 onwards.

Danielle says:

'I've been involved with Safe Space for just over a year and a half now. I'd been looking to get involved with a local charity for some time and had been active in another charity for the previous year. It was during this work that I met the Chair of Safe Space, who invited me to find out more about them. Safe Space were a really interesting charity for me - local, dedicated and with a cause that has a high demand for service, yet is difficult to promote. I wasn't entirely sure exactly what I could offer, but hoped that my business and HR skills might be of some use. So I applied to become a Trustee, had an interview and got the role!

'What do I get out of it? A sense of perspective and reality. I work for a very large company and have good resources at my fingertips, meaning that I can get things done when I need to. I find that working with Safe Space reminds me that there is more to the world than business and that every penny is precious and should be treated with respect. I take that back to the teams I work with too - it really helps us be more careful in our decisions.

'What do Safe Space get out of it? Since I joined I've had to turn my hand to all kinds of things in the hope of making a difference. Anything from advising on HR issues to running workshops, from finding pro bono experts to support us in moving space, to this year rolling up our sleeves and bringing together a gang of volunteers to launch our biggest fundraiser yet, the Safe Space Write-athon ( What I really hope they get out of it, is a sense of support and willingness to help. I also hope that they get a different perspective from me and some benefit from my experience in the corporate world.

'What would my advice be to someone who wants to get involved? Be prepared to be patient and understanding, and make a decent commitment - to be at the things you say you will, and to be involved for a while. Accept that every idea you have won't be right for your charity, but every now and then, some of them might just fly. Expect this to take up some of your time and know that you won't always get a warm fuzzy feeling just because you decided to get involved. In return for all of that, I guarantee you'll get more than you imagined - you'll meet new people and get to be a small part of an inspirational world where people do things because it's the right thing to do, not because they're trying to make a profit.'

Marion Francis is a trustee of The Leprosy Mission, a Christian charity based in Stirling. The charity is part of a global partnership that brings healing and justice to those affected by leprosy.

Marion says:

'I've been a member of The Leprosy Mission Scotland Board of Trustees for just over a year. I became involved because it's a small charity dealing with a stigmatised "old fashioned" issue. Many people think that leprosy was eradicated long ago, but it still affects many people across the world, though it can be treated very easily once it's diagnosed. However, the disease still stigmatises many people, their families and communities. The Leprosy Mission Scotland raises funds for projects in Africa and Asia which provide support for those affected by leprosy, including training programmes, medical support, and community support.

'Being a trustee of the charity is a real privilege. I'm part of a board which meets four times a year and has people from all walks of life. Being part of this team is great. I've worked in economic development for over 20 years and being a trustee of The Leprosy Mission Scotland allows me to use some of my experience to benefit projects across the globe. Being a trustee also enables me to get involved in the business side of the organisation, helping to ensure it is run effectively and efficiently and therefore makes the most of all the money raised by individual givers and corporate donations or institutional grants.

'I'm a 47 year old mum of four kids, with a professional day job as well. So in many ways I don't have a huge amount of time to be the trustee of a charity, but I find that I can fit in Leprosy Mission meetings and commitments - and I thoroughly enjoy it.'

Sandi Wilkie is chair of Simpsons Special Care Babies (SSCB), based in Edinburgh. The charity supports the Simpsons neonatal unit at Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary.

Sandi says:

'I've been part of the charity for over a year now. After the unexpected premature birth of my first daughter Alex at 27 weeks, it felt only right to give support back. It's a charity very close to my heart, being a former premature baby myself. We took Alex home three months later and she grew and got stronger. It was then that I decided it was time to get in touch and see how I could help. And here I am!

'A baby's chances of survival depend on a number of things - having access to up-to-date medical and nursing care, as well as the love and support of family and friends. Fortunately, scientific advances are developing at a phenomenal rate, but due to pressure on NHS resources, the neonatal unit can't always keep pace with these advances and SSCB tries to bridge this gap. We help with funding for equipment and training for nurses, all of which helps result in increased knowledge and facilities to ensure that a baby has the best chance of survival and getting home.

'SSCB is solely reliant on volunteers and fundraising, which means that charity really does start at home - with this, we can make a difference to fragile babies' lives and futures. Having been on the neonatal journey myself and the rollercoaster of events and emotions that arise, it's reassuring to know that we can make the experience as easy as possible for all involved. Thanks to SSCB, every baby on the unit can benefit from the life saving technology and get the best start in life. I would say to anyone thinking about joining as a trustee, just do it! If you have the time to spare - certainly SSCB is open to all support. One in every nine babies is born prematurely or sick in the UK, and with willing volunteers, we can make sure these little fighters get stronger and go home to their families.'

Iona Lister is a trustee of The Howard Doris Centre, a charity that provides care support for the elderly. The charity is managed by the Strathcarron Project in Ross-shire.

Iona says:

'I've been a trustee for over a year now. As someone working in care homes for over 20 years in England, I felt that when I moved to the Highlands, the last thing I would be doing was involving myself with such work. It was only when I set foot in the building that I was drawn into a world of congeniality, efficiency, good humour and contentment. I was reminded of the words of Alan Bennett, who when describing a person at work stated that "she looked as if she was not doing it as a day-job, but just for the fun of being there." Those words always come to mind when I see the people at work at the Howard Doris Centre.

'There's always a positive atmosphere, even in the gloom of winter. The clients are encouraged to be independent and helpful, as opposed to being in passive receipt of tick-box caring rituals. The blooms in the surrounding garden are testament to the green fingers of some of the clients, and the walls are decorated with their artwork too. Everyone is encouraged to feel valued, whether as a client, a volunteer or a staff member.

'Being a trustee has meant a huge amount to me. The board meets regularly, and we discuss and implement decisions that relate to the continued success of The Howard Doris Centre. Despite the strict procedures of the board, we are mindful that it is the personalities of those involved - especially of the manager, Sally Ross - that are responsible for such a pleasant and positive working environment.

'For anyone considering becoming a charity trustee, I would strongly urge them to go ahead and apply. A board needs members with complementary skills. It does not matter if you are useless at Maths (as I am). Management may appear to someone outside the system that it is all about money. It certainly is not. And even when financial decisions have to be taken, ethical standards, efficiency and creativity enter the discussions at every level. You may be surprised what you can contribute to the work of your chosen charity, and discover that you can make an important difference to a cause that is close to your heart. In doing so, you can gain a great deal of personal fulfillment and achievement.'

Maureen Boyle is a trustee of Friends of Lagganlia, a charity set up to raise funds to enable children to benefit from a residential experience at the Lagganlia Centre for Outdoor Education in the Cairngorms when they might otherwise be excluded due to financial restraints. The centre itself is owned by the City of Edinburgh Council but is totally self funding.

Maureen says:

'We're a relatively new charity, only being registered in November 2011. As a primary school teacher in West Lothian, I regularly visited Lagganlia in the 1980s and early 1990s. I, and many of my pupils, benefited from the quality courses on offer. Although we initially went there for ski-ing, I soon realised that Lagganlia had a lot more to offer, and is an excellent base for Outdoor Learning. I was invited back to the celebrations marking the centre's 40th birthday and was approached shortly after to become involved in setting up Friends of Lagganlia.

'At the moment we're trying to build up funds, having had our first event in September this year. We're looking forward to the day when we can fund our first child's place on a course. It never occurred to me that I would ever be a charity trustee, but all it takes is belief in a cause. Apart from the feeling that we are doing something worthwhile, I've relished the challenge of being company secretary, learning a whole new language, and being instrumental in achieving our registration as a charity.

'Our own board of trustees has a diverse set of skills, but all share the same goal of making the benefits of a residential experience at Lagganlia accessible to more children. Becoming a Charity Trustee isn't necessarily going to be a long term commitment, but if you feel passionate about a cause and want to help it progress, then give it a try. Everyone can bring something to the table, whether it's the ability to speak in public, a creative mind for fundraising, or just a willingness to do whatever is required.'

Alistair Stenton is one of the founding trustees of The Zoe-Lee Foundation, a charity based in Aberdeenshire helping children with leukaemia and other life-limiting diseases, and their families, in Cape Town, South Africa.

Alistair says:

'My wife, daughter and I set up the charity in 2006 following the loss of our niece to leukaemia in South Africa at just 23 months. Zoe-Lee had all her family with her each day while going through chemotherapy. We decided to start the charity because we saw many children going through treatment without any family members with them, due to geographic and economic factors, sometimes for months at a time. We knew that something better could be achieved for those family members who desperately wanted to be with their sick child, and we set about raising money to fund family visits. Our ultimate goal is to provide badly-needed accommodation near to the hospital where mothers can stay while their child undergoes treatment.

'The board of trustees has grown and evolved over the last six years, with some of the original trustees moving on and replaced by other equally dedicated and generous individuals. The development process has been wonderfully organic and the charity now includes a doctor, a lawyer, an oil company executive, a university lecturer and a teacher among its trustees. They give so much of their time and expertise to pursue the charitable purposes which have also widened, to include not just children with leukaemia and their families but also children with other life-limiting diseases and their families too.

'One of the best aspects of serving as a trustee is seeing the outcome. This could be as rewarding as the smile on her face when we have helped a mother to visit her sick or dying child. Or a message from one of the nurses to say what a huge difference our small contribution has made to a particular child's life. It doesn't always have to cost the earth either - our first mother's visit was funded by the sale of just 20 tee shirts on a well known internet auction site. She hadn't seen her 12 year old daughter for 14 months since diagnosis, as the family lived 500 miles away from the hospital. The tee shirts had been kindly donated by one of our patrons.

'I would say that anyone thinking about becoming a trustee of a charity should do it! Whatever you have to offer, age and experience or youthful enthusiasm, just go for it! You will be amazed at what a difference it will make to your whole outlook on life. And what a difference you can make to the beneficiaries of your chosen charity. You will also meet some truly amazing people along the way!

Clive Fairweather was a founding trustee of Gardening Leave, a charity set up five years ago offering horticultural therapy for veterans with mental health problems. The charity was first set up at Auchincruive near Ayr, through the imagination and energy of founder Anna Baker Cresswell, and now also operates at Erskine, in the Dundee area, and at Chelsea. Clive's story is told by fellow trustee Alistair Macmillan, who describes him as 'the epitome of the perfect trustee'.

'Clive was a fundraiser for Combat Stress and, as it has a residential home nearby Ayr, he became a contact for referral of suitable veterans for the therapy offered. As a retired senior soldier and former Scottish Prisons Inspector, he not only appreciated what our charity could offer, but also what it needed to meet the requirements of the veterans. He became a trustee in order to assist in the development of our charity. Gardening Leave has grown in stature, reputation and effectiveness since its inception ably assisted and often steered by Clive. He was totally supportive of the staff and a great advocate. While he could plan ahead, problem solve and be pragmatic, he always demonstrated integrity. Allied to that was his moral courage in not letting anything slack, idle, or be overlooked. We all miss him but will never forget his example, encouragement and positive effect.'

'I wanted to become involved in the work of a charity, and visited the Dundee Volunteer Centre to look for experience in co-ordinating volunteers. Youth-Link Dundee responded to my email and, after visiting them and speaking to Linda, the manager, I decided I'd like to become a trustee. I was already on the Board of another charity, but they were at an advanced stage and working well. I felt that Youth-Link could make better use of my skills.

'I don't keep too well, so being a trustee allows me to help without too much of a commitment. I learn from everyone else's range of skills and experience, for example, it's really boosted my confidence at speaking in public. Being a trustee is something many people just don't think of - but charities are always looking for people with skills and enthusiasm. It's been such a good experience for me - my friend is now a trustee with the same charity!'

'Ten years ago I completed a course in field archaeology at Glasgow University's Department of Adult and Continuing Education. ACFA had been founded 15 years earlier to provide opportunities for people like me to use and develop the skills and knowledge we had gained in adding to the record of known archaeology in Scotland. I'd gained much from my involvement in ACFA and decided it was time to give something back, by joining the committee and becoming a trustee. I take the responsibility seriously and I'm aware of the importance of the contribution of charities to the educational and cultural life of Scotland. Without volunteers willing to become trustees, your favourite charity couldn't function.'

'I've acted as a trustee of the above charity for seventeen years. My profession was in banking and I was able to take on the responsibility as Treasurer and Secretary. This was at a time when Gift Aid was replacing Deeds of Covenant. For five years I was also involved as an adviser in Leith Enterprise Trust and this kept me in touch with all aspects of finance relating to the small business sector.

'The charity has grown substantially over this time, and I've been able to contribute on banking, investments, tax arrangements, legal matters, insurance and fundraising. Knowing the internal workings of a bank was very useful. If you are equipped and willing to make a contribution to further the aims of a charity then by all means do so. You are putting back something into the community. It's important to be a team player.'

'I've been a trustee for a very short time, for a charity called PEACE Childcare. This is a charity set up to met the childcare needs for school age children in Ayrshire. I became involved after seeing an article on their website. Also, my daughter attends the breakfast club, afterschool club and school holiday day-care run by the charity.

'I enjoy the diversity of issues that are discussed and resolved. It doesn't take up all that much of my free-time. I work full time and being a trustee still fits into my busy schedule. I truly believe that we all take from the community around us and it is good to give something back. I do think the hardest challenge right now for charities is the fundraising required to survive in these times of economic austerity.'

'I've been a trustee with the Portknockie Community Association for 12 years. I joined the charity because, as a retired incomer from "doon south" I was joining a close-knit village group and wanted to show commitment to my new neighbours. Becoming an active member of a village group with the task of helping to bring the residents together in partnership seemed a worthwhile way of volunteering my services. As a result I give something tangible back to the community that welcomed me as a resident.

'It gives me great satisfaction to be part of a team that delivers village social and recreational activities and maintains, as a community asset, the village hall. I would urge others to join in this community team effort as a practical way of showing pride in your community and respect for fellow residents. Do not just expect things to happen in your community, but ask: how can I make a contribution?'

'I've been a trustee of the Lady Margaret Skiffington Trust for eight years. The charity has two purposes - to help the blind in East Fife, and to maintain some amenity woodland. We consider applications for financial assistance from visually impaired people who need aids such as special computers, and from the organisations who help them. We are also keen on sensory gardens.

'I became a trustee through my connections at work. It's a privilege to be involved in deciding how best to manage and dispense our funds. As some of us getting on in years, we would welcome new trustees who would enjoy helping the blind, or be interested in our gardens and woodland. It's satisfying work.'

'I founded Clovenfords Magazine and have been one of its trustees since we obtained charitable status in 2011. The charity promotes citizenship and community development by providing a website and local magazine. I've enjoyed being a charity trustee, as it has given me a good insight into the third sector and specific aspects of charity law. We could have run our organisation privately or as an unregistered voluntary organisation, but I wouldn't have learned nearly as much that way. Being a charity trustee takes a lot of dedication, but is an excellent way to learn about how charities are run. I recommend it if you're up to the challenge!'

'When I took early retirement in 2010 after working for 23 years in the voluntary sector, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to begin a whole new career in teaching. I also responded to an advertisement for trustees, from a charity called Stepping Stones for Families - and was successful. I wanted to use my experience in a voluntary capacity to give something back and, hopefully, carry on making a difference.

'I've found the experience frequently challenging, but also very rewarding. The charity provides intensive support for some of our most disadvantaged families, a service that has never been needed more than it is now. There are many opportunities to use my experience in my role as a trustee, and we have a good blend of different backgrounds on the Board. There is a myth that only successful business people make good trustees. But in truth, charity business is very different, and the qualities most needed are commitment and common sense. So, many more people could do this and really make a difference.'

'As a history teacher for 30 years in the south of England, I had always appreciated the contributions made by museums, large and small, to enhance classroom learning, be it through 'Victorian school days' in the old Board School, or reliving the Trenches at the Imperial War Museum. When I decided to have a career break, one of my aims, when I decided to have a career break (which has lasted 10 years now!) and move to the North-West Highlands of Scotland, was to become more involved in practising for my own interest what I had been preaching for so long. The Gairloch Heritage Museum proved a treasure house of resources and, most importantly, made me, an 'incomer', feel that my research was significant to understanding the history of this remote parish in Wester Ross.

'In gratitude for this help and support, I offered to re-audit the Museum's Library resources, which led to me becoming involved in an exhibition project and then in 2006 accepting an offer to become a Trustee. Since 2009, as the Secretary of the Gairloch and District Heritage Society, I am just one of 70 committed volunteers helping our professional Curator to manage the Museum and an extensive range of activities, including traditional music and skills workshops and research into local social history, archaeology and genealogy. As the Museum prepares for major developments, on a new site, I have the satisfaction of knowing that what I help to do brings added value to the heritage experience of visitors to the area and the local communities, not only now but for the long-term future.'

'I've been a trustee for The India Village Project for six years since I visited a village in Mangamanuthu, Tamil Nadu with a view to liaising with the village, the local schools and the Rainbow AIDS Project. It all began as a project adopted by the school, following the Global Citizenship initiative suggested by the Scottish Government. When we set up our Project I became a trustee to further the work of helping in these three areas. Being retired from teaching, I 'm able to spend a great deal of time co-ordinating the work done by three schools - St Paul's RC Academy and St. John's RC High School in Dundee, and St Ninian's Primary School in Hamilton, Lanarkshire.

'The most interesting part of our Project is the development of housing in the village, provision of essential materials for the schools, and support for the women and children involved in the AIDS Project through financial contributions. The pupils and staff, who contribute so much through fundraising and lessons concerning our Project, benefit greatly from the experience and become more open to understanding the problems encountered by those less fortunate in India. I would suggest to someone who wishes to become a trustee that he or she will be involved in a number of areas, and should be prepared to give a reasonable amount of time.'

'CFSS has been a charity from just after its inception in 1970. I've been involved since 2000, first as a council member and over the past eight years as Treasurer. Our aims are "to promote interest in the environment and heritage of the local area". In winter there are fortnightly lectures from September to April where we invite speakers to give Presentations on subjects, such as history, environment, and archaeology. In summer there are fortnightly local heritage walks, and four Saturday walks in the local area within 50 mile radius of Alloa.

'As a trustee, I get great satisfaction in getting involved with all the aspects of organising events, publishing books and personally as treasurer being involved with all the financial aspects, looking after the Society's money and applying for grants to finance publications. If the aims of the "organisation" are to your liking, and participating in its affairs as a trustee are what counts, you can get great satisfaction in doing something worthwhile. You're not alone - remember that every trustee has the support of OSCR.'

'Over the years I've been involved with a number of charities as an employee, a trustee and simply as a member. Although I'm still the trustee of several Scottish charities, there's one I'd like to tell you a little more about. On a wet and windy evening late in 1977 a group of local people, including me, met in a secondary school in Fife and agreed that we wanted to establish a charitable housing association to address the needs of single people and the growth of homelessness locally. The particular prompt was the closure of the last traditional homeless persons' hostel for men in the region.

'I'm therefore a founding trustee of the Association and remain proud that we've been a party to developing and managing over 3,400 houses, mainly in Fife. The Association has played a major role not only in providing the housing but also as a path finding innovator and local leader in the provision of housing and support for homeless people and people with the full range of special housing requirements.

'I realise that my lengthy tenure must come to an end soon, but when thinking about that, there always seems to be another exciting bridge about to be crossed and I want to be a party to the crossing. It's probably the innovation that has been the most exciting. Most rewarding over the years, however, is simply being aware that I've contributed to knowing that several thousand people have been well accommodated in the area over the years of my participation. To a potential trustee I would say that patience is necessary; the task can be challenging in all kinds of ways, but also extremely rewarding when long standing objectives are being successfully met.'

'I've been a trustee of ACC for nearly six years. ACC is a charity which seeks to equip and resource individuals involved in counselling and pastoral care throughout Scotland as well as the rest of the UK. Its work and impact stretches way beyond the people directly involved, to the thousands of people, often in great distress, that are helped each year.

'I became a trustee in response to an advertisement by the charity for a Financial Director. Being both an accountant and a counsellor gave me insight into the work, as well as being able to provide accounting and financial direction. In subsequent years as a trustee, I've enjoyed being part of a team working together to improve the services we provide, rising to the many changes and challenges that occur, and seeing the impact that the work of the organisation has on individuals and communities.

'I feel that I can contribute time and knowledge as an accountant to ACC, which is needed in managing a modern charity and would be expensive if they had to pay for the services externally. Being a trustee means being involved and this can be time-consuming, but it's work that is worthwhile. It's about using gifts and talents that you may feel are just about the workplace or are not that significant, in a new and different way to assist in delivering vital work that benefits individuals and societies.'

'I became a trustee of Infertility Network UK in January 2012. I retired as a Civil Servant in July 2011 and, as my latest post had involved health policy in Scotland in the area of NHS provision of fertility treatment, I was asked to join the Board. I have found the role of a trustee which is new to me, very interesting and challenging. Fellow Board members, staff and volunteers all have a high level of commitment to the charity, most having been directly affected. I bring other skills to the table and very much enjoy the new and very different challenges being involved which charity work presents. I find it rewarding to be a part of a varied team with such dedicated and positive goals.'

'Buddies Clubs and Services is a charity for children and adults with a disability, a high proportion of whom are on the autistic spectrum. The purpose of the charity is to provide social and play opportunities for children and adults who don't have the opportunity to develop these necessary life skills in a mainstream setting.

'I have a son and a daughter, both in their twenties, with autism. Both have been part of Buddies since its inception in 1994. Services have developed to accommodate their changing needs. When I retired in 2007, I wanted to give something back to the charity that had provided, for our family, a much needed and appropriate service which enriched all of our lives and became a trustee in 2008.

'Being a trustee has given me an understanding of the big picture of the charity, and an understanding of the complexity of running such an organisation. It's also given me an opportunity as a parent to help develop services by bringing to the board my personal experiences and knowledge of the difficulties that parents like myself encounter. Trustees bring their skills and experience to an organisation, but these will not enhance the management structure unless they understand and value the ethos and vision of that organisation. Being a trustee is about working with others for the benefit of the organisation, the staff and client group.'

'I'm a Trustee of the Mamie Martin Fund and have been for about a year, although my involvement goes back 20 years since the charity was set up by my parents in memory of my grandmother, who died in Malawi in 1928, while living there as a missionary wife.

'In its 20 years the charity has helped many girls in the north of Malawi to attend secondary education. I've been lucky enough to visit Malawi three times, as in my own job as a teacher at Falkirk High School I helped to set up a school partnership. The schools' link was my main focus with the charity until recently when I decided to move on to the committee as a Trustee. Malawi is a strong and heartwarming thread in my life. Over the years I've met dozens of inspiring and friendly Malawians, many of them passionate about the cause of girls' education. I'm very proud of what our little family charity has achieved, especially having been in Malawi and meeting the girls with their hunger for education and dedication to their studies, despite all the barriers.

'Being a Trustee means moving beyond the warm fuzzy feeling which makes you want to support the cause. It means getting to grips with the difficult decisions and very real responsibility of managing other people's donations in the best and most effective way. However, it is a way of making a difference to people's lives. I'm attaching a recent photo of the girls in my partner school who are currently being helped with their school fees. When my motivation for getting out to a meeting, or answering an email or reading a report is flagging, their smiling faces help me remember why we do this!'

'I set up the first charity in the UK specifically for people with Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis in 2007. I was chair of the charity until July 2012 and am now a trustee. I set up the charity because I'd spent the first four years with these conditions, looking in vain for information and support. I was very miserable, felt isolated and had no quality of life. PMR & GCA affect the elderly who are already coping with ageing and often have other long term conditions. Our aims are to provide support and information, raise awareness and encourage research as there is no known cause and no known cure. PMR is the most common inflammatory rheumatic disease in the elderly and GCA is the most common cause of preventable blindness in the elderly.

'The most interesting but frustrating aspect of the work is learning that there are still some health professionals whose knowledge of these conditions is still poor. Other interesting aspects are learning where to obtain funding, the gratitude of people to whom we provide support and information, and the consequent satisfaction that we are succeeding in our aim, learning how to approach and how to raise awareness of the conditions in Government, NHS and other relevant bodies and working with those who are beginning to do some research. To become a trustee you need a willingness to help with fulfilling a need, to provide a different perspective at meetings, and take joint responsibility for the trustees' decisions in furthering the aims of the charity.'

'The PF Counselling Service is an independent voluntary counselling agency serving the whole of Edinburgh, offering over 10,000 hours a year of short- and long-term therapy to adults from all walks of life, irrespective of their ability to pay. It offers a first class service, professionally run, for individuals seeking support to tackle a wide range of life issues, such as anxiety, abuse, grief, health issues, depression, addictions, relationship difficulties, self-esteem.

'I first became involved four years ago, initially as a trainee student counsellor on placement and volunteer receptionist, and now as a fully qualified, experienced counsellor and Board member. I love working there, and am proud to be part of the team of committed and passionate professional counsellors from a wide range of trainings and backgrounds who volunteer their time each week to support clients to overcome difficulties and lead more fulfilling lives.

'I joined the Board when they were looking to broaden the range of expertise and ensure the counsellors' perspective was represented. I had previously served as a non-executive director of Edinburgh Healthcare NHS Trust for five years, and had enjoyed the work very much. I have found the most interesting aspect of being a trustee is being involved in shaping future developments to improve the service and premises, while providing support for the work, our service-users, our dedicated team, and our wonderfully compassionate and able director.'

'I've been a trustee of Kelso Orchard Tennis Club for a number of years. The Club has been registered as a charity in Scotland since 2003. I've also been a trustee of the James McLean Trust for quite a few years. It's a responsible but enjoyable experience, meeting with other trustees to monitor the performance throughout the year and making decisions on the future direction of the organisation.

'I would urge others who have an interest in the work of any charity and who would like to make a difference whenever possible, to apply to become a trustee. There is naturally a time commitment involved, no matter how large or small the charity but you have to commit to this to enjoy the experience and to make a difference.'

'I've been a trustee for just over four years, having being invited to join the Board. I've always been passionate about high quality music education, the opportunities for young people to make music together and all the untold benefits that these activities bring to society in general. I also think that, if we can, we each have an individual responsibility to give something back to the wider communities which nurtured, supported and encouraged us in our own educational opportunities and professional endeavours.

'The most interesting aspect is the excellence of the outstanding young musicians who are pupils at the school, particularly in music, but also all round academic achievements and in extra-curricular activities. It is an excellence which comes as a result of hard work and disciplined learning, but always with a positive sense of purpose. Listening to concerts and other performances is a joy and a privilege. Hopefully, what the charity gets out of my role is the benefit of extensive fund-raising experience in youth music, experience in good governance in a range of charities, access to a network of useful contacts and understanding of financial and risk management. For someone becoming a trustee, it's important to be passionate about believing in what the charity is about and to keep a focus on the main aims and objectives.'