As part of its social impact initiative, leading law firm Mishcon de Reya has introduced its employees to Step on Board, a full service board-level volunteering programme, run by Trustees Unlimited and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).
The programme helps lawyers and non-lawyers in the firm to find non-profit board roles and in so doing, develop their leadership skills, while contributing to societal development. Step on Board provides them with an introduction to trusteeship, followed by an in-depth one–to-one diagnostic interview with a consultant before they are matched to suitable trustee roles.
One organisation that has benefited from Step on Board is LHA London, a provider of high quality accommodation in London for students, up and coming working people and young people starting out in London for the first time.
The organisation’s strategic goal was to recruit new trustees whose age was more reflective of its young beneficiaries.
Tony Perkins, Chief Executive at LHA London explained: “We reviewed our charitable objectives and wanted to better engage with our beneficiaries by recruiting younger trustees. We identified that we also needed legal skills, social media capability and housing policy experience.”
He approached Trustees Unlimited to find the right candidate. He said: “Trustees Unlimited understood our brief and has a broad range of highly motivated, professional candidates on its database. A strong short list was produced by the company and we were impressed we had a choice of candidates.”
LHA London selected Alexandra Whiston-Dew, a young media lawyer in her 30s from Mishcon de Reya, who was on the Step on Board programme. They were impressed with her legal credentials and understanding of social media when communicating with young people.
As part of the interview process, Alexandra met some of the team at LHA to see what the organisation was trying to achieve and attended a board meeting before she was taken on.
One of the benefits for LHA London was the fact that Mishcon de Reya encourages its employees to volunteer a percentage of hours each year for charitable purposes. LHA had anticipated it would be difficult for a young professional to balance career demands with attending board meetings, subcommittee meetings and away days. They were relieved that Alexandra could commit fully to the role.
Through Step on Board, Alexandra was able to pursue her interest in assisting young people who don’t have access to the financial resources or contacts to pursue their life ambitions.
In fact, Trustees Unlimited carefully matched Alexandra to two charities: LHA London and a charitable organisation called Future Talent, which helps support gifted young musicians from low income backgrounds.
Alexandra said, “Through the Step on Board programme I was presented with opportunities that matched my objectives. Trustees Unlimited supported me through the interview process whilst I did my own due diligence and research, which was an important part of the decision making process.”
A year into her trustee role at LHA, Alexandra now sits on the interviewing committee for new trustees and has thrown herself into other committee work.
Describing her experience she said: “Many trustees on the board know the organisation inside and out, but I have been welcomed and my views have been carefully considered and accepted. I am learning a great deal from the trustees and management. I am being taken out of my comfort zone and making decisions that are important and impactful.
“This experience is helping my career development too. I can more easily understand what clients need from advisers. I would recommend trusteeship to anyone – but it must be approached professionally and with passion, it can’t be a tick box for the CV.”
Richard Williams, Director of Enterprise at NCVO says, “More than ever, charities are in need of trustees from professional backgrounds to improve their governance. Step on Board is helping commercial businesses like Mishcon de Reya contribute to charities in a meaningful and sustainable way, whilst developing their skills and experience of their people.”
Ian Joseph, Chief Executive at Trustees Unlimited and Managing Director of Russam GMS (one of the partners of Trustees Unlimited) says, “We’re delighted that through Step on Board, Mishcon de Reya has enabled LHA London to find such a good trustee. We look forward to continuing working with the organisation to help it fulfil its strategic goals of recruiting trustees from more diverse backgrounds.”