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Why you should add a campaigner to your charity board

I really love being on the board of trustees of both Campaign Bootcamp and Results UK, but as I look around I don’t see lots of other campaigners on charity boards.

I wonder if it’s because board chairs don’t always appreciate the skills and experiences that a campaigner might bring onto a board when they have a vacancy, or they’re not seen to hold the same status as those with professional skills like lawyers or accountants.

So to mark Trustees Week – I’ve quickly come up with a list 10 reasons why you might want to look to add a campaigner on your charity board;

  1. Relentlessly ask you about impact – campaigners are changemakers, motivated and driven by what will have the biggest impact to deliver the change that they’re looking for. They’ll bring that focus to your board – asking if what you’re doing is having the impact it should.
  2. Bring an external perspective – campaigners spend their days scanning what’s happening around them to shape campaign strategies, so you’ll get someone on your board who can help you think through what’s happening around not just in Westminster, Whitehall and beyond.
  3. Help you to focus on the ‘root cause’ – campaigners spend their time asking the ‘why’ question – why is something happening, but why is that happening, but why. They’ll bring that perspective to some of the strategic challenges your charity faces, and might help to uncover the root causes at the heart of them.
  4. A healthy understanding of the law – In my experience, charity board can often be conservative when it comes to interpreting the law, campaigners are often experienced in navigating some of the key legislation that impacts charities, on issues like data compliance or the Lobbying Act. But they also have a healthy attitude to exploring how to work within that – they won’t ask you to do anything outside of the law, but they might challenge some of your assumptions.
  5. New connections that you might not expect – too often charity boards aren’t about what you know, but who you know. Campaigners might not have a Rolodex – does anyone still have one of those – of high-net-worth individuals, but through their work, they’ll likely have a network of contacts and colleagues across the charity sector and beyond.
  6. An audience-first attitude – campaigning is often about trying to put yourself in the shoes of your support or campaign target and think what will motivate them to act. Expect that perspective to come into the conversations you have about your charities’ work.
  7. Passionate about volunteers – rarely as a campaigner can you achieve your outcomes without working with and alongside amazing volunteer campaigners. So you’ll have a natural champion for your volunteers on the board.
  8. Messaging insight – Thinking about how to framing messages and developing narratives is a central tool for campaigners – so you’ll be inviting someone to join your board who can really help you think about how to ensure you’re communicating with impact.
  9. Trend watching – who on your board is looking at the key political, social or economic trends that might impact the work of your charity in the years to come – campaigners are always looking out for what’s happening and changing in the world around us.
  10. Cross-organisational experience – want someone who is able to be involved in as you review your fundraising, advocacy or programs work? Chances are that a campaigner is working alongside colleagues from across these areas in their work.

So next time you have a vacancy on your charity board, why not consider recruiting someone from a campaigning background onto it – feel free to reach out on Twitter and I’d be happy to see if I can share your advert.

If you’re a Campaigner/Campaign Manager/Head of Campaigns reading this, I’d really encourage you to look for consider joining a charity board. You’ll find that there is loads from your work that you can contribute as well as getting the satisfaction helping to  – and it’s also a really great opportunity to learn more about how a charity operates.

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