Being a trustee – I wanted to be able to give something back to that community which I am so proud to be from

Mohamed Esat, VAL's Treasurer, writes about his experience of being a trustee and what made him decide to become a trustee.

When I was growing up in inner city Leicester in the 1980s, I witnessed the hardships faced in terms of economic deprivation, unemployment and lack of educational attainment by those I grew up around and those parents who were first-generation migrants from the Indian sub-continent and Africa in the 60s and 70s.

My parents encouraged me at school and, as my family’s situation improved, I was extremely fortunate to go on to college and University and eventually get a training contract with a local firm to study towards a professional accountancy qualification.

My experiences through those formative years have stayed with me and kept me grounded (and very much still do) and I saw that many of my peers still faced those challenges. I was lucky to have had an opportunity which gave me access to a career that rewarded me and gave me direction.

I wanted to be able to give something back to that community which I am so proud to be from.

I was never someone who felt confident enough to, say, fundraise for worthwhile projects to help those in poverty, support the welfare of animals or support cancer awareness, all of which are worthwhile and fantastic work. Instead, I wanted to use some of the skills I had gained in pursuing my career choice to help charities in a more general sense. Finance/accountancy was the area I was comfortable with and I wanted to use those skills to help charitable and voluntary organisations in Leicester.

I began in 2010 by supporting a local charity/umbrella body whose purpose was to promote the interests of the Muslim Community of Leicester with local and national government and statutory bodies across areas of safeguarding, health and social care, community cohesion and interfaith work. In 2011, I became part of a Leicester-based interfaith charity promoting interfaith work and was appointed as Treasurer.

In 2013 I joined the board of Voluntary Action Leicestershire as a trustee/board member and became Treasurer in 2016, supporting the organisation to achieve its strategic aims and providing financial governance to the board.

These opportunities allow me to support organisations to help make a difference to people’s lives for the better, and for me this is extremely rewarding.

I don’t have the skills to fundraise but I can use my knowledge and background in finance and accountancy to help the organisation to help its service users.

Equally, I have learnt so much about governance, financial management and stewardship that I would not have from my main career. Yes, there is a time commitment, but the value I get from working with people that are so passionate about the voluntary sector is priceless and immeasurable. There is so much fantastic work that often goes unrecognised, but the fact this work is making a difference to people’s lives is extremely rewarding and enriching. Along the way, I have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people and made some really good friends. I have even had the opportunity to attend Her Majesty the Queen’s garden party, which I could never have experienced if I was not involved in voluntary work.

There are so many charities in the sector that are crying out for trustees to assist with governance and to bring commercial sector experience to their organisations.

As the pressure on finances is ever-increasing due to funding constraints and increasing costs, the importance of a strong and engaged trustee board is crucial to the longer term sustainability of so many of our charities. As one of my colleagues once said to me, if there was no charitable/voluntary sector, imagine the pressure that would put on already-stretched local and central government and statutory bodies to provide these same services, potentially resulting in an entire generation of clients that would not have have the quality of services that they so desperately need to enrich their lives and improve their wellbeing.

This is is why I became a trustee.

I currently sit on four trustee boards and I am really passionate about what we do, but we need more people to get involved as trustees. Why not see how you can help others improves their lives for the better?

Get involved

If you’ve ever thought about becoming a trustee, or you want to know more about what it involves, you can look for trustee positions on the VAL Volunteering website.

Mohamed Esat

Mohamed Esat is VAL's Treasurer. As a qualified accountant with many years of experience advising a range of clients, he provides VAL with expertise in financial management and governance.