Sophie Bell has been a Trustee of Hostelling Scotland since October 2018. She was 22 when she was appointed, following an extensive period of mentorship with Margo Paterson, the organisation’s Chief Executive, and a year of participation in the Charity Board Initiative which is run by Santander Universities and RSM in conjunction with Edinburgh Napier University.
Hostelling Scotland is a not-for-profit charity with over 60 youth and affiliate hostels. By providing affordable and welcoming accommodation in some of the best locations across Scotland, they hope to help all, but especially young people, experience and appreciate what Scotland has to offer. They also run charitable youth programmes, like the Explorer Fund, to enable young people to develop their skills for life, learning and work.
Sophie’s journey to becoming a trustee began with attending a Charity Board Initiative introduction evening in November 2017. Margo Paterson, Hostelling Scotland’s CEO, presented on Hostelling Scotland and the organisation’s desire to recruit a young trustee to their board.
“As part of the Charity Board Initiative,” Sophie explained, “participants are matched with an interested charity and I was lucky enough to be paired with Hostelling Scotland.” This opportunity allowed Sophie to benefit from Margo’s mentorship to familiarise herself with Hostelling Scotland’s governance and strategy.
Afterwards, she submitted a nomination form and had a telephone interview with Sally Mayer, the Vice-Chair, before attending her first Board meeting in October 2018. It was there that she was introduced to the rest of the Board and invited to share her experience. Following this, she was unanimously co-opted as a Trustee.
Through being a part of the Charity Board Initiative and already working with Margo, Sophie felt she was in a good position to join the Board when the time came.
After officially becoming a trustee, Sophie had the opportunity to attend a full day induction at their Stirling office where she met with each department and gained a detailed insight into the operations of Hostelling Scotland. “Having the chance to meet the team and ask any questions I had was really useful and a great way to feel supported in my role as a new trustee.”
An English Language graduate, Sophie said that her involvement with the Charity Board Initiative and Hostelling Scotland has allowed her to develop skills in areas that she wouldn’t otherwise have had access to, such as finance and legal duties.
“I am glad to have this opportunity to broaden my skill-set since the things I have learned come in useful in wider aspects of my life too,” she shared. “The experience of being a trustee, and the knowledge that is required, prepared me for entering the workplace after university, while holding such a position demonstrates to prospective employers that I am responsible and committed to personal development.”
Starting the Charity Board Initiative in her final year at university meant that Sophie didn’t have a lot of spare time to dedicate to the programme. However, the advantage was that the training sessions were at flexible times and she could pick and choose the topics she wanted. “This allowed me to prepare for trusteeship at a speed that suited me and the other commitments I was balancing at the time,” she reflected.
Sophie has always been keen to give back her time and skills whenever she could and she told us that trusteeship allows her to make a difference in a constructive way. “As a trustee for Hostelling Scotland, I attend quarterly board meetings and I know that I can ask Margo questions, or refresh my knowledge at training sessions, on an ongoing basis,” she told us. “Thanks to the Charity Board Initiative, I felt fully prepared to take on my trustee role which makes it much easier to balance with my other commitments now.”
Sophie feels that it is important that organisations have a diverse perspective on strategy and performance, and this can be improved by appointing younger trustees. “The reason that young trustees are beneficial is because they introduce fresh viewpoints to issues and I believe that a broader range of experiences results in effective solutions.”
“I am proud to be a trustee for Hostelling Scotland,” Sophie shared with us enthusiastically, “since I think that all organisations, but especially those that serve young people, should represent their audience at Board level to ensure they remain competitive and sustainable.”
Sophie admitted that she has really enjoyed her journey to trusteeship and would recommend it to anyone who is interested. “Sometimes there can be a bit of work involved in developing the necessary skills but I would say that, as long as you are enthusiastic and willing, it’s a thoroughly rewarding experience.”
“I felt extremely supported in becoming a trustee as a result of the Charity Board Initiative and my mentorship so my advice would be to find some similar support.” Sophie advises. “Whether it’s seeking training on aspects you’re unfamiliar with or finding an existing trustee who is willing to take on a mentoring role, having that support is invaluable. In my experience, there is a real desire for young trustees so now is a great time to get involved!”