In September this year I stood down as Chair of trustees at Emmaus Mossley after just over six years in the role. It’s been a great privilege, fascinating, stimulating and a great learning experience.
I became a trustee at Emmaus Mossley twenty years ago having first been a volunteer helping produce press releases and handling newspapers, radio and TV for events, promoting our work at Emmaus Mossley. Whilst Don Simpson was Chair I acted as Deputy Chair and when he stood down as Chair I was asked by my fellow trustees to take over that role. I had been working at the Oldham Evening Chronicle but retirement gave me the opportunity to give the time and commitment needed to the role of Chair.
One of the easiest ways of understanding the role of Chair is to think of Emmaus Mossley as a train. Everyone who supports or is part of Emmaus Mossley is on board the train and we all decide together where we want to go on our journey. The challenge for the Chair is to make sure we keep going in the right direction… and the same direction!
For the Chair there are two important relationships: the one with fellow trustees and the one with the lead member of the staff team who is responsible for the day-to-day operation of Emmaus Mossley and who is also involved in strategic planning.
On a practical level this means: ensuring that the board of trustees has the appropriate mix of skills, is kept informed and involved through bi-monthly trustees meetings and sub-committees which also involve staff, volunteers and companions; working with the treasurer to make sure trustees have a clear and accurate picture of the finances. In fact, everything to make sure trustees are fulfilling their responsibilities to the charity to ensure it functions properly, is in a good financial position and is heading in the right direction.
It also means having a good relationship with the executive lead, with each understanding their role and working together. Regular meetings and open, honest communication are key to this as well as understanding their role and the challenges that come with it. However, boundaries need to be understood on both sides and it needs to be a kind but critical friendship to ensure that the charity functions in the best way possible. In some ways it is the most important relationship in the community as if it doesn’t work then all sorts of problems are likely to occur.
For the most part being chair is very fulfilling and enjoyable, with the opportunity to meet a wide range of people and exchange ideas and the odd joke! Our 20th Anniversary year celebrations were a memorable highlight for us all with the opportunity to meet so many supporters, old and new, coming together to celebrate where Emmaus Mossley is today.
Being Chair has not been without its challenges. The chief of which has been the threat of Universal Credit to the future of Emmaus communities all over the UK. It was a major concern to us all and we did a lot of lobbying, worrying and thinking about plans for the future to ensure that Emmaus Mossley would continue. Government finally changed its mind on its application to communities such as which support formerly homeless people, but its effects are still felt and we should remain vigilant to such threats.
My main piece of advice to anyone thinking of taking on the role of chair of a charity is that whilst people will look to you for leadership it is not a position of power! You are not there to tell people what to do. It may be a delicate balancing act that has you chewing your hair at times but you are there to ensure that everyone works together to achieve the charity’s goals.
Whilst I’ve been chair of Emmaus Mossley I’ve been lucky to have had the support of a fantastic staff team, a great bunch of companions and marvellous volunteers who support our work.
It has been a source of great pride to me to be able to go to meetings with other communities in the UK and at Emmaus UK secure in the knowledge that at Mossley we do everything we can to contribute to Solidarity, Emmaus International, support other Emmaus communities and the growth of the movement.
So thank you to everyone believes in the work we do and gives their time and efforts to supporting it. There’s still plenty to do!