Student Volunteering Week 2021 –Young Trustees bringing value to trustee boards

Helen Oparinde, Development Officer in VAL’s Voluntary Sector Support team, celebrates Student Volunteering week and considers how young people can strengthen our local VCSE sector.

Student Volunteering Week this year takes place between 8 and 14 February 2021. The week celebrates student volunteering in the following ways:

  • Improves student wellbeing
  • Develops students’ employability
  • Contributes positively to the wider and local community life

2021 is the 20th year of Student Volunteering Week in the UK.

Student volunteering and social action in the UK have a long history, from work camps for the unemployed in the interwar period, to CND protesting and Student Community Action after the Second World War.

Students are often at the forefront of promoting different social issues and interest.

Voice of young people

The voice of young people can help to stir hope and provide inspiration.

For example on Wednesday 20 January 2021 the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, Amanda Gorman, recited her poem The Hill We Climb at the inauguration of Joe Biden, the 46th president of the United States. Within the poem Amanda quotes:

We are far from polished, far from pristine,
but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colours, characters, and conditions of man.

In the context of the VCSE sector, the Charity Commission over the years has encouraged the charity sector to strive to have more diverse boards. Explaining that younger people are a vital part of our society, they offer skills, perspectives and outlook that could give great value to charities and their boards.

Young Trustee’s Movement

The Young Trustee Movement, powered by The Social Change Agency, quotes that less than 3% of charity trustees are under 30.

In their article, Intergenerational perspectives enable better decision making, they refer to the Governance Code’s approach to diversity. Explaining that board diversity, in the widest sense, is essential for boards to stay informed and responsive and to navigate the fast-paced and complex changes facing the voluntary sector.

The Young Trustee Movement’s article goes onto explain three types of benefits of this approach to board diversity. Such as:

  • Benefits for boards – navigate uncertainty
  • Benefits for young people – Chance to grow your network
  • Benefits for employers – Cost effective personal development

Now more than ever the opportunity for young people to develop skills to aid future employability is key. Back in October 2020, The Resolution Foundation’s Annual Intergenerational Audit, described a U shaped Covid crisis with over half of those aged 18-24 and 65+ who were employed before the pandemic have since stopped working – either by being furloughed or by losing their jobs altogether – compared to fewer than a third of those aged 30-50.

Becoming a young trustee can provide an alternative pathway to employment, when such things as internships and work placements have been paused or cancelled due to lockdown restrictions.

Now more than ever local VCSE organisations are having to develop skills in delivering an alternative digital provision and/or additional demands for their service, which young trustees may have the knowledge and enthusiasm to come up with strategic solutions to these issues.

Benefits for boards

A young person aged 16 or above can apply to be a trustee of an incorporated charity such as a charitable company or a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO). If they are aged 18 or above they can apply to be a trustee of either an unincorporated charity or an incorporated charity.

Mowmacre Young Peoples Play and Development Association is a charitable company based in the Mowmacre Ward of north Leicester. The charity provides “Open Access Play” for children in school year 1 up to the age of 19 years. Encouraging healthy physical, creative, social and emotional development. Their trustee board includes two teenagers.

Their Neighbourhood Youth & Play Development Officer, Mick Lederman, who is responsible for the day to day management of the playground, premises and services, feels their contribution in trustee board meetings is beneficial to remind the older members of the board and the staff team what it’s like to be young, and also how it is different to be young in this century.

Such as when the trustee board and management were reviewing their bullying and harassment policy, the young trustees were able to bring an experienced perspective to the discussion. The discussion included how the policy could be used to “help the bullies” and agreed that the approach shouldn’t be limited to what can be enforced and controlled at the playground.

Whilst the organisation uses reflective practice by obtaining a lot of input from the children who use their playground, having input on tap from young trustees, who previously used the services, has enhanced the charity’s awareness of identity, and mental health issues that young people experience.

Mick added: “They also bring a focus on keeping things fun, that’s important for the management, staff and volunteer development as well as our play!”

If you would like to explore how to recruit young trustees to your charity’s board please get in touch.

If you are a young person and what to find out more about local trustee opportunities, you can sign up and search for trustee roles across Leicester and Leicestershire and apply directly to the organisations who have posted them.

Benefits for young people

As a young mum, many moons ago, my employer at the time, encouraged its employees to carry out community activities to develop skills. I was a trustee for a few years at Rolleston Pre-School Playgroup and Toddlers, an unincorporated charitable association at that stage. Where I had the responsibility of rota-secretary making sure that we had enough volunteers to run the service.

When the opportunity for voluntary redundancy from my work role became available, I swapped my career from the commercial sector to the local VCSE sector joining a local CVS as a Connexions Development Officer. This and a number of other volunteer roles I carried out helped provide the experience on my CV to make that transition. Now I am not far off celebrating 20 years of working in this type of rewarding role.

Getting on Board, a charitable company, was founded to close the gap between charities which are keen to find better trustees, but aren’t sure how, and those people who can meet that need, but need a road map to navigate their way. They have some useful tools to help young people utilise the opportunity of being a trustee to help their career path.

They have a template cover letter for young trustees, as well as a generic template CV within their resource bank.

Their how to become a charity trustee – a practical guide can also be downloaded for free.

It covers:

  • What a trustee is
  • Responsibilities of a trustee
  • Finding the right role
  • Crafting your application

In the inauguration poem, Amanda concluded with:

The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Here‘s hoping that you will capture that dawn bloom and brave opening doors to new responsibilities of being a young trustee or new responsibilities of recruiting and nurturing a young trustee.

If you would like to chat about becoming a young trustee or recruiting young trustees, please get in touch.


Helen Oparinde

Helen Oparinde is a Development Officer for VAL as part of the Voluntary Sector Support team. Helen is an expert in charity governance and provides face-to-face and telephone advice to local charities and community groups. You can contact Helen at