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Who are you calling a llama, Palmer?

7 July 2017

At work, a colleague called Liz and I used to get together regularly and discuss our roles as trustees. Looking back, it was an important activity for both of us in our professional development. I discussed my role as a CharityComms trustee and I listened to what Liz did in her role with Vauxhall City Farm.

And so I got to learn a little bit about Alpacas. The alpaca – or Vicugna Pacos – is a domesticated species of South American camelid. And incredibly sweet. But don’t ever call them llamas. Jerry the Alpaca, based with his friends at the farm, has his own personality.

The chats I had with Liz were great because we realised that we had so much to bring from the charity boardroom back to the workplace. We even wrote an article about it. And now, my time as a CharityComms trustee has come to an end.

Six years as trustee

CharityComms has just celebrated its tenth birthday but I joined the board in 2011 when it was still a very new organisation. And in those six years, it’s been a really interesting – and challenging – time for the sector. OK, there are still those that think that charities merely dispense tea to grateful recipients. But a lot of work is going on to show that charities and not-for-profits are doing vital work for society. At a recent CharityComms event, a delegate summed this up:

Most people don’t know where the state stops and charity starts.

The same delegate also reminded us trust in charities is actually higher than it was ten years ago; something to celebrate. But the next challenge looming is data protection law changes coming in next year, the effect this will have on charities and how we continue to communicate with stakeholders.

Sometimes you need to keep hammering on about an issue. CharityComms have long been advocating for communications leads to have a seat at the table because communications is such an important part of what charities do. I hope this push continues because work can still be done in this area.

My three recent stand-out moments

A big hug from an alpaca

For me, the greatest thing about CharityComms is engaging with fellow professionals at events. On countless occasions over the past six years, I’ve fallen into conversation with people who all do a very similar job to me. It’s helpful and reassuring just hearing people are facing the same issues; or realising despite the concerns you have, you’re probably moving in the right direction. It’s like having a big hug from an alpaca.

I know that many members of CharityComms are also massive advocates for the organisation. Just look at the beaming faces of delegates at an event, featured on the CharityComms Twitter page. I’m really going to be miss being a trustee. But I’m still a member and all of the great support is still available to me.

Just a vacancy

I do encourage you to apply for my vacant post of trustee. And a word about ‘governance’. Frightening, isn’t it? Well, it sounds very complex but it doesn’t need to be. Yes, you need to sign off the finance report and yes you need to know about governance responsibilities but for me, being a trustee is fundamentally about asking challenging questions but doing so in a very respectful manner, at the appropriate time. This is because of your other role: to support and encourage management and staff.

So it’s goodbye from me and all the best to Adeela and the team for the future. And let’s hope that CharityComms increases in popularity by the day and continues to offer members the reassurances they need. Just like Jerry the Alpaca does.

Steve Palmer

press and public affairs manager, Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE)

Steve's current communications work concentrates on supporting SCIE to achieve its business goals. Since 2003 he has worked for charities dealing with substance misuse, mental health, learning disabilities, volunteering and wider social care. Steve was previously at the BBC and before that he had another career at Trailfinders Travel. He is also an advocate for rights for people with learning disabilities. Steve’s written a ‘warts and all’ book about his son entitled Down’s with the kids. Steve supports Stoke City and enjoys getting muddy at summer music festivals.