Volunteering as a Trustee with Richmond Borough Mind

This blog appeared in a London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames CVS “Volunteering as a Trustee” newsletter 

Volunteering as a Trustee at Richmond Borough Mind

I have run my own small business in Richmond for over 30 years. I am still busy but my family is grown up now. I wanted to “give something back” by donating some time to an important cause.

Why volunteer as a Trustee?

I noticed that there were regular events organised by Richmond Council’s CVS where you have the opportunity to talk informally to people from a variety of local charities about different types of volunteering activities. I actually write regularly to a local senior citizen as a result of a conversation with Embracing Age at one of those events.

As I trained as a psychologist and have a particular interest in mental health I had a chat with the chair of trustees and the CEO of Richmond Borough Mind (RBMind) at another of those events. With some trepidation – as I wasn’t sure whether I could make a contribution – I signed up to apply. I was invited to a friendly discussion with the CEO where I learned more about the charity and the Trustee role, a more formal interview and then some background checks so it took a few months before I officially became a Trustee.

Becoming a Trustee

There was a steep learning curve at the start. I read a lot of material about national Mind and also RBMind. Then an existing Trustee spent a couple of hours with me and three other prospective Trustees explaining some of the detail. The local authority also provides excellent free training sessions for new Trustees – so I spent two evenings learning about how to be a Trustee at a local college. It was great to meet many different people from so many walks of life who had signed up to be Trustees at other Richmond charities. It’s incredible the range and diversity of voluntary organisations here. There was also some on-line training on Safeguarding.

Some statistics about mental health in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames:

  • It is estimated that 24,500 residents (of a total of 200,000) will have a mental health condition – it’s a rising trend
  • Richmond performs badly when we compare the mental health of our young people with the rest of London – almost a third of 16-19 year olds have a diagnosed mental health condition and we have the third highest rate of hospital admission for self-harm amongst 10-24 year olds
  • 55% of 15 year olds in Richmond report having been bullied in the previous two months (the highest proportion in London)

What’s involved in being a Trustee?

As a trustee, you can do as much as you feel able to. Sometimes I have more time available than at other times – depending on my workload. As a minimum, I have to read the papers to prepare for Board meetings which take place every two months. I also volunteered to be part of the Finance Committee so I also attend those meetings. There are two qualified accountants on that Committee so we have a lot of expertise to help with financial scrutiny and governance. We have great people chairing our meetings so they are focused and productive and run to time.

There are also one or two other areas where I have become involved – supporting the business development team and organising the strategy away day. You sort of offer to help when you think the time and task is right for you. It feels more than being part of the team with other Trustees and managers – it’s like being part of another family as they are so friendly and supportive with each other.

Working with the management team

One of the things that I enjoy is working with the full-time staff at Richmond Borough Mind. The management team are such dedicated people. It is humbling but satisfying to know that in some small way I might be assisting them as they try to help so many people in the Borough with their mental health issues – whether that is by providing counselling services, setting up peer groups, running activities where people can develop friends, creating a crisis centre or teaching kids at schools how to maintain their emotional wellbeing.

We also have the managers who lead the different services come along to Board meetings to describe their particular areas of work. Again, these are great people doing important work and it makes it very real to hear their accounts of the charities’ work from the front-line. We then have to work as Trustees to ensure that the funds are available to enable them to continue and extend their good work.

Another aspect of the role that I particularly enjoy is attending various events where RBMind and other charities promote themselves to the funders, local authority officers or the general public. I am there to wave the flag – acting as a kind of Ambassador for RBMind.

We have fun too – I joined in with a fund-raising quiz night where we enjoyed fish and chips. And there was a Christmas social after a recent AGM meeting.

Working with the volunteers

I really enjoy working with our volunteers. We are fortunate to have an army of over 150 hard-working volunteers.

Much of RBMind’s work is about empowering people who have experienced mental health problems to help themselves and, when they are recovered, to then help others. Some of the stories I have heard from these people are truly inspiring. There are quite a few people who started out using RBM’s services, then became volunteers running activity groups and then became employees to devote all of their time to helping. That’s a life changing transformation for those individuals and it’s incredibly powerful when they share that story with people in the midst of their own mental health challenge. It brings real hope.

Kim Tasso, Trustee of Richmond Borough Mind https://www.rbmind.org/

Richmond CVS (an independent infrastructure organisation,  providing dedicated support to the many Voluntary and Community Sector organisations in the borough of Richmond upon Thames) can be contacted here https://richmondcvs.org.uk/