For Volunteers Week (1-7 June 2022), we wanted to raise awareness of the importance of volunteering, as well as shed a light on and celebrate the incredible work of one of our volunteers – Sam Greenhouse, our Chair of Trustees.
We sat down with her and asked her a few questions. This is what she had to say:
Q1 – Before we get into your role as Chair of Trustees, can you tell us a little bit about you?
I live in Reigate and enjoy running and cycling in the local countryside. I am an independent facilitator and trainer with a background in the NHS.
Q2 – When did you become a Trustee for MFT and why?
I contacted Voluntary Action Reigate and Banstead about five years ago when I had a little more time having left my full-time job to work for myself. I was interested in trustee opportunities as I felt I had something to offer from my organisational experience and wanted to connect more with the local community, having worked mostly in London.
When I heard about the Mary Frances Trust, I was immediately impressed by the work they do and the people involved. I became the Chair about 18 months ago when the previous Chair resigned.
Q3 – How have you found being a Chair of Trustees?
I’ve really enjoyed being both a Trustee and the Chair. The Chair role obviously involves more work as it means planning the Board meeting agendas and doing a bit more work between meetings. As Trustees, we are ultimately responsible for making decisions about how the charity is run, to ensure this is done in the best interest of the charity and the people we serve. An important part of this is hearing from MFT’s Advisory Group. We also receive reports from the Chief Executive and other staff. We do this mostly through our Board meetings, which usually take place four times a year. As Chair, I work more closely with the Chief Executive and collaborate with the Trustees in a slightly different way. I enjoy thinking about the strategy and ways in which we can help Mary Frances Trust continue to thrive and be more helpful to more people. And I’m learning all the time!
Q4 – Why did you want to volunteer for a mental health charity in particular?
From my background working in the NHS, I’ve always been aware that mental health services haven’t always been seen as a priority. It’s good that there’s a better understanding of mental health now, and things like Time to Change Surrey are really helping with this. There’s so much more that we can do to support people who are experiencing poor mental health, which can and is affecting so many of us. I particularly like the way that Mary Frances Trust works with the people we serve, focusing on the whole person and making connections with other services and the local community.
Q5 – What do you enjoy most about your role?
I like working with people and have met people I would never otherwise have met. I really enjoy working with the Trustees, hearing different perspectives and coming to an agreement on the best way forward. When I left my full-time role, I found I missed the sense of continuity and belonging that being part of an organisation provides. Being part of MFT gives me that. I feel I bring skills learnt in my previous roles and there’s an intellectual challenge to find ways to apply these without stepping into the operational management of the charity. It’s a great way to develop and learn more skills!
Q6 – Can you tell us about some of the things you’ve worked on as a Chair/Trustee and which you are proud of?
I am very proud to be associated with the Mary Frances Trust, of the work we do and the issues we are supporting, rather than anything I have personally done. We’ve seen the charity grow significantly in the last 18 months, and we have worked well as a Board to improve the governance of the organisation to reflect this, hopefully without it losing its special touch and way of working. There are inevitably some difficult decisions and challenges we face as a Board and I like to think that we have explored them in an open and respectful way.
Q7 – What would you say to someone who is thinking of volunteering but isn’t sure if it’s for them or is worried about the time commitment?
Someone advised me before I got involved to be sure that it was in something I was really committed to and passionate about because there’s no doubt there are demands on your time. I don’t think I would have taken on the role of Chair if it wasn’t to support something I believed in. It is worth thinking through what time you’re prepared to commit and having a clear conversation with the organisation about this and their expectations. Most, I’m sure, will be happy to find ways of working with the time you can offer, but you will need to manage your boundaries for this.
Talk to people involved to get a feel for them and what the work will involve. Think about what you want to get out from it as well as what you can offer. As I said it’s helped me keep and develop my skills and feel more linked in with the local community. I feel I have benefited and grown through my involvement.
I would definitely encourage people to think about it and give it a go!
Q8 – MFT will soon be launching a recruitment campaign for more Trustees. Can you tell us about what sort of person you are looking for?
Given our focus as a charity, we are particularly keen to have someone who has worked in the mental health sector, potentially as a clinician, and for people with lived experience. We want our Board to be more representative of the people that we serve and so I’d like to encourage anybody who might be interested but might not feel as though they have the skills or experience or background to be a Trustee to get in touch and discuss it further.
If you would like to find out more about being a Trustee, you can email Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org