Giving a new Board guidelines to channel and focus their commitment
“David was really good. He was really informative, not overbearing but nice and gentle, positive. He didn’t frame his points in a critical way, just what needs to work better. We all understand that we’re doing our best but that we’ve got a long way to go as an organisation. The feedback from the day was brilliant. It’s really helped.”
Cara Perry, CEO, Jasmine House
Jasmine House is a Leicester-based charity set up 30 years ago to help female survivors of sexual abuse, sexual violence and rape. The appointment of Cara Perry as CEO in 2020 and a new Chair of Trustees in 2023 bookended a period of change, during which several new trustees joined the Board.
The charity is overseen by Rape Crisis, which had pointed out a need to strengthen the leadership structure and establish more clarity over roles within the Board. While the Trustees were eager to help as much as they could, this state of confusion meant that much of the work that they should have been taking on was falling to Cara.
Having met David Saint at the ACEVO conference, Cara came straight to Action Planning. “They were trusted through ACEVO and the conversations and the process they proposed seemed like a really robust training package.”
After our initial conversation with Cara, we agreed that the service required was a mix of a governance review and a training workshop to improve the Trustees’ collective understanding of governance.
We organised an awayday at a local hotel to give the trustees the benefit of face-to-face time away from the work environment. This was particularly important for such a newly formed Board. Ahead of this David spoke to all the trustees individually. This exercise gives everybody the space to be really honest and helps to make everyone feel heard when it comes to the group session, as well as saving time in establishing some fundamentals, such as the current state of play and each delegate’s idea of success. David then used the feedback from these conversations as the basis for the training.
Beginning with an overview of the status quo, and an indication of the current strengths and weaknesses, in terms of the mix of skills and experience, David delivered his recommendations arising from these initial findings, specifically around further training, the skills they should look for when recruiting new trustees and over-reliance on Cara’s skillset.
Moving on to the training workshop, David covered the duties of trustees, the basics that all trustees need to know and what it means to be a trustee. He then stopped to gauge the level of confidence in the room with regard to having the necessary skills and knowledge to fulfil those duties.
David moved on to governance and then asked delegates to mark their Board out of 10 for each of the requirements of the Charity Governance Code, followed by a brainstorm of ideas as to how they might improve those scores.
After lunch David provided a critique and considerations for aspects of the charity’s governance, including board meetings, CEO reports, agendas, AGM and other special topics. Ending the day on strategic planning, David fed back the delegates’ views on the current strategy and provided a framework for drawing up a new strategic plan and putting it into action, followed by questions and discussion.
Cara fed back to us that the Awayday had gone down very well with the trustees. One who had been with the charity for 10 years said she had never done anything like it before. Others said that it explained to them what they needed to do individually, and put everybody on a good foundation in terms of figuring out a way of working forward.
For Cara’s part, while she came away with a lot to do, she had a really clear idea how she was going to go about it. “I feel prepared and I don’t feel stressed about it, whereas before I felt a bit blind about what I was feeding back. Now I’ve got a really clear idea about that,” she said. “It was definitely worth it.”
Although there is a great deal of really clear guidance available about the role of trustees – especially from the Charity Commission – all too often trustees are unsure about their specific roles and responsibilities in practice. It is sometimes hard to translate generic principles into practice in a specific situation. The Trustees of Jasmine House are understandably passionately committed to the cause and want to do a really good job in their roles as Trustees. It was great to be able to provide a framework to channel their commitment and passion.