What is Pro Bono O.R.? (attend our event to find out more)

Pro Bono Operational Research (OR) is a scheme that places professional analysts in short term projects with third sector organisations to assist them in making evidence based decisions for operational improvements.

See more on Pro Bono O.R. and the event on the Voluntary Action Fund blog here.

To hear more about Pro Bono O.R. please register to attend ‘Forging Connections Between Business and the Third Sector’, a free event from VAF and Edinburgh Napier University on Thursday 14th Jan 2016 in Glasgow.

I shall also be presenting at this event on “Addressing the Scotland’s Grand Challenges: The Role of the Scottish Government Business ‘Community’ Pledge”. I look forward to seeing you there.


WORKSHOP: Enhancing Relevance and Impact in Brazil for Research in Green Technology Management & Product-Service Systems

May I strongly recommend the above workshop to be held in the University of Sao Paulo on 14-17 March 2016. I had the pleasure to be part of a similar programme last year at the same University. It was a tremendous experience and I am now part of two discussion groups looking at putting in funding bids for collaborations between Brazil and UK institutions.

All travel and accommodation expenses will be covered by the Researcher Links programme. For further details, see here for details on the Aston University website. 

PLEASE SAVE THE DATE! Forging Connections between Business and the Third Sector event

Forging Connections between Business and the Third Sector:

Please join VAF and its academic partner, Edinburgh Napier University on Thursday, 14th January 2016 at the Mercure Hotel (Ingram Street) in Glasgow.

Come and hear more about the changing landscape of corporate and third sector working in Scotland.  Contribute to and shape paradigm shifting research on practical responses to the concept of responsible business, in light of the Scottish Government’s Business Pledge (https://scottishbusinesspledge.scot/).

We hope you will be able to attend, so please save the date in your diaries now.  FREE registration will be available on Event Brite very soon.

Untapped Talent: You and our Young Professionals as Trustees

Published on the Institute of Fundraising Blog (Scotland).

Diversity in the boardroom is certainly a hot topic at present; particularly gender-balance on boards is at the top of the agenda – rightly so. There is one other untapped source of talent; our Young Professionals. With the Charity Commission reporting that the average age of a trustee is 57, and with 67% of all trustees over 60, our boards are generally male, stale and grey.

Let’s not confuse the word ‘young’ with ‘youths’ – this would be a complete injustice to our young professionals. There are rules relating to legal capacity governed by legislation. You might be pleased to learn that we define a ‘young professional’ as anyone 56 or under.  Are you in? If so, by getting on board, one of your contributions will be to reverse this trend. We use the word ‘professional’ as we recognise the unique skill sets that we all have and can be of value to a board.

To read more, go to: http://www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk/blog/untapped-talent-you-and-our-young-professionals-as-trustees/


“O wad some Power the giftie gie us, To see oursels as ithers see us!” (Robert Burns)

VAF and Edinburgh Napier University Business School have been successful in gaining a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). One of the great things about a KTP is indeed the transfer and application of knowledge from a University to a business or organisation and getting the chance to think systematically through a problem and its solution. Our KTP is looking at the alignment and connectivity between Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) / Sustainability polices and the real and emerging challenges of the third sector in Scotland as VAF believes in aligning these more effectively more resources can be brought to the communities in which we work.

See the full post: O wad some Power the giftie gie us, To see oursels as ithers see us! Robert Burns on the Voluntary Action Fund blog.

‘How to Encourage More People to Join Boards’ – Discussion at Trustee Week 2015 Conference Dundee

Tomorrow I shall be leading four table discussions on the topic of ‘How to Encourage More People to Join Boards’ at the Trustee Week Conference in Dundee.  Here are my notes and discussion questions.

I would value any comments that you may have. 

Aim of Discussion

To identify ways in which Trusteeship can be encouraged and how we can build relationships and networks to support the development of trustees in Scotland.


The Challenge: Encouraging more people to join boards

Trustees play a vital contribution to society across approximately 45,000 Voluntary Sector Organisations in Scotland (SCVO, 2010).  However, many third sector organisations find it difficult to recruit trustees and often rely on word-of-mouth to fill appointments.  In Edinburgh alone, the Volunteer Centre reports an estimated 90% of board-level vacancies, across 1800 Voluntary sector organisations.  Nevertheless, Scotland is not short of volunteers, with 1.2m adults (28% of Scotland’s population) undertaking volunteering activity each year.  Trusteeship is one form of volunteering that provides a unique experience to gain valuable skills at a strategic level and a great way to ‘grow’ and ‘give back’.  The Charity Commission report low levels of awareness amongst the public that a trusteeship can be regarded as a volunteering opportunity – less than 5% of people are aware that trusteeship can be a way to support a charity (Tomorrow’s World Telephone Omnibus Survey, 2006). There are also perception issues around the amount of time required to fulfil a trustee position, concerns with potential liabilities and interestingly some individuals believe they lack the necessary skills (DCLG, September 2008). Key to unlocking this is to promote the benefits of Trusteeship and to develop new and existing networks (i.e. existing volunteers, local interfaces, umbrella organisations, support groups) to communicate this message to inspire others.


Discussion 1. How can we encourage more people to consider being a Trustee?

Ensuring an effective board: Fit, skillsets and promoting diversity


Board’s to be effective need the right mix of skills, knowledge, backgrounds and experiences and perspectives to govern well, as well as embodying diversity in its widest sense (The NCVO Good Governance Guide, 2010).


At the 2013 Trustee Week Dundee Conference, there was a lot of discussion around ensuring the right ‘fit’ between the prospective trustee, board and the vision and values of the organisation.  Firstly, there was consensus that the individual should be passionate about what the organisation does and for some, have volunteered for the organisation in the past.  There was also general support for greater demographic diversity (e.g. age, gender, and ethnicity) on boards.


Charity Commission statistics show that (in England and Wales):
  • Average age of a trustee in the UK is 57, with 67% aged over 60.
Only 0.5% of the trustee population are aged 18 – 24 yet this equates for 12% of the total population.
  • Tends to be a 50:50 split between men & women in smaller organisations, but this shifts to 67:33 in larger charities (NCVO, 2012)
  • 9% of total board members were from ethnic minorities


Mackinnon (2014) notes that policy-makers and funders expect to see various groups represented yet be highly proficient at strategic planning, finance, employment etc., and also hold high levels of competence with the regulatory requirements that the voluntary sector and charities face.


Discussion 2: How can boards ensure the diversity of board members to reflect key stakeholder groups and the skillset required to govern effectively?


Recruiting trustees: Sources, network and support

Please see ‘Recruiting trustees – cast a wide net and take the long-term view’ provided by Ilse MacKinnon at the ‘Putting Trust in Trustees’ SCVO conference in Edinburgh (November, 2014).  As well as recruitment websites and local press; one source could include encouraging individuals who already have volunteered and may wish to take the next step.  Secondly, boards could actively seek local professionals with specific skillsets and functional knowledge (e.g. by contacting an accountant on LinkedIn who lives local).  Students are also great potential trustees as they are eager to grow, practice what they learn and ‘give back’; if not today but certainly could be the trustees of the future!


Discussion 3: How can third sector organisations build relationships to encourage existing volunteers, local professionals, and University and College students to join their boards? What training requirements might each group need?