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Being a trustee was a career step I’ll never forget

26 November 2018

I was a CharityComms trustee for many years but I’m also proud to say that my involvement with the organisation  goes back to the very beginning. In fact I still clearly remember sitting in a coffee shop in Shoreditch in about 2006 with the founder Joe Saxton saying to me: “John, I’ve got this idea…”.

After more than ten years and after six years as chair, I stepped down at the end of February 2019 but will always have fond memories of the experience. It was quite a ride and the friends and colleagues I worked with during that time  – both trustees and staff – are too many to mention. They’ve all made an important contribution and I hope they are all as proud as I am of the organisation that CharityComms has grown into.

We always wanted to build an organisation that helped communications to be more respected, understood and valued in the sector – and to make it better. We wanted practitioners of all strands of the communications mix to feel they had a home in the same way that fundraisers perhaps feel about the Institute of Fundraising. The aim was to help new communicators to develop and grow, and assist old hands to find in finding a network where they could share their experiences, their challenges and their successes. I think we’ve done all of that.

As we always say:

Our vision is for effective and inspiring communications to be at the heart of every charity’s work for a better world. Our purpose is to improve the standard of communications and champion its role in the sector. We represent, support, inspire, connect and inform our members and the wider charity communications community. 

The organisation has grown, matured, learned over the years. Leaders like Nora Roberts, Vicky Browning and now Adeela Warley have achieved so much with their teams and the support of many a welcome favour from friends and supporters.

The moments that make it all worthwhile

As a trustee, while we can enjoy and celebrate the organisation’s successes and the growth of membership and influence, we are there primarily to ensure that the charity ‘conforms and performs’. We are accountable for adherence to the law and the requirements of the Charity Commission, for good governance, financial stability and delivery of our purpose as a charity. It’s a serious commitment and one we never take lightly. We are all motivated first and foremost by what is in the best interests of the charity and while we would never claim to be perfect, we make it our business to learn when we know we could improve.

As chair I took particular pleasure in working closely with the senior staff members, as I am sure new chair Mark Russell does too – supporting and challenging and trying to share any experience that might help us to do even better.

Of course, it’s great to be part of a trustee board for other reasons too. Working alongside a group of experienced people from many backgrounds for a shared passion and knowing that we are helping the (extremely) hard-working staff to achieve their own goals is hugely rewarding. It’s not without its challenges. It’s not an easy ride. Not every decision is an easy one, but it’s as much fun as it is serious work. It’s an experience for which I’ll be forever grateful.

Ready to rise to the challenge?

Now CharityComms needs some new faces and new ideas. They are looking for four new trustees, three elected and one co-opted, so if you’ve thought about taking on a trustee role before, please consider CharityComms. Take a look at the advert. CharityComms would love to talk to you. If you’ve never thought about it before, now’s your chance. You won’t regret it. It will be one of the most rewarding decisions you ever make.

Banner photo: Arafit Tarif on Pexels

John Grounds

Communications, marketing and campaigns expert, Communications consultant

John is the former chair of CharityComms' trustee board. He is a strategic consultant in corporate, brand, communications and marketing strategy, primarily in the not for profit sector. He is the former deputy CEO of RSPCA. His career has included both commercial and charity roles. Prior to the RSPCA he was at the NSPCC, as director of communications and latterly director of child protection consultancy. Previously, he was director of campaigns and communications at medical charity Action Medical Research. Past roles include responsibility for comms at Barnardo's, five years at The Body Shop as international PR manager and a PR and campaigning role alongside Bruce Kent at the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Outside work, music is a consuming passion, as well as a love of film, art and literature and a 40-year plus devotion to Arsenal FC.