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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Sullivan

Trustee Work Life Balance

Updated: Nov 7, 2019

Trustees become trustees because they believe in a cause.

And we all know how easy it is to get swept away in a cause in which we believe. We become all-consumed by new projects, willing to work more hours than usual to keep the momentum trucking along.

This blog post is designed to help trustees (or newly signed up school governors, as I have recently become) to achieve a healthy and productive work/life balance that will benefit all parties involved.

Different sized rocks balancing on top of each other
Balancing can include different elements for different people

Staying productive as a trustee

My first tip, when you sign up to be a trustee (or school governor), is to set aside adequate time to devote to the responsibilities that come with such a position. Without allocating the time needed, you could be doing more harm than good – to yourself and to the organisation of which you’ve become a part.

This includes preparing yourself in advance for meetings. Read the paperwork before you get to the meetings, familiarise yourself with the organisation’s structure and learn all the jargon – particularly the acronyms.

All this is in addition to attending the actual meetings. Depending on the set up of the organisation, these can take up half a day to a full day for each meeting. Take the time to get to know your fellow trustees, which will help you understand each other’s motivations and opinions. This will help the group make better decisions.

Allocating the time you need to spend on charity work

If you have staff, give them the space they need to do their job without ‘interfering’.

Agree with the other board members, a list of things that need a trustee to work on them and report back to everyone on those jobs in meetings. Your peers will be the best group to hold you to account on the amount of time you’re spending on given jobs.

If you don’t have staff, make a personal commitment to the amount of time you should be spending on your work for the charity – and stick to it. This amount of time will be different for different people so don’t judge your workload by other people’s. Allocate the time according to your value judgement.


Self-care is not selfish. It’s an aid for productivity, if anything.

Giving all your time and energy to a charity is not productive. If you’re frazzled and worn out, you aren’t giving your best. Take the time to allow yourself to rest and catch up. Everyone will benefit more from it.

Spread the workload

Why do you volunteer? Because you love it?

Your friends and family might love it too, so why not spread the workload and ask them to volunteer alongside you? Many hands make light work, as they say.

Consider professional outsourcing

Take a look at the list of jobs the charity needs help with. Is there anything on there that should be handled by paid professionals? For example, auditors should be paid to protect their neutrality. There could be other elements of the workload that should be paid for too.

Look for pro-bono support

Where you can, seek out pro-bono support. Not everyone can commit to becoming a trustee but seek out professionals who are happy to lend their unpaid support on smaller projects such as running profit and loss accounts, delivering training sessions, or providing a technical service once or twice per year.

Keeping up a healthy work life balance as a charity trustee is crucial to deliver your best.

Do you have any top tips to add to the list above? We’d love your feedback to help other trustees make a success of their volunteering journey. Add comments below, or email

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