Stephen Gilbert FCG
Meet Stephen Gilbert FCG as he tells us what its like to be the Chair of Trustees for the WCCSA Charitable Trust
Stephen is a qualified Chartered Governance Professional with over 25 years’ experience in the charity sector. He has extensive experience in governance, change management and assisting in resolving the tensions that can arise.
Stephen formerly held the CEO position at The Printing Charity, an organisation founded in 1827 with a Royal Charter granted by Queen Victoria in 1865 to support the printing and allied trades. Following that Stephen joined the Royal Society of Medicine, initially shadowing the Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee for six months, before taking over as its Chair for the next six years.
For me the strength of the qualification is its breadth and depth and that allows Chartered Governance professionals to enable organizations, in my case charities to deliver their purpose.
Good governance leads to success in achieving your charitable purpose. It also ensures that you do not run into time wasting problems which can be avoided.
What is Governance?
Running an organisation well, with regard to finance, ethics and social impact. Not just having policies and procedures but applying them every day in the spirit, not just the letter of the law or the policy.
What is a governance professional?
A problem solver who is not afraid to ‘speak truth unto power’. I have said for many years do not ask me if you can do something, because I can only answer yes or no. Rather tell me what you want to achieve and I will do my best to get you there ethically and legally.
The route to a career in governance
At 18 years old the head of my school gave career advice to my parents, ‘Let him go into the bank, it will be good training for whatever he finally decides to do’!
Roll forward a decade and a bit and I went to occupational psychologists who provided careers advice. The results pointed towards the role of company secretary. I studied while working, using BPP study texts and took exam after exam in Hove Town call, not always successfully. Got there in the end.
The essential skills for success in governance
I would say that the most essential skills are:
- lateral thinking
- being persuasive
Writing two Royal Charters as part of major modernization of two long established charities. The Supplemental Royal Charter for The Printing Charity changed the name of the charity from the Printers Charitable Corporation to The Printing Charity. This minor change reflected the major change in the printing industry. The charitable objects were where the real substantive change occurred in that the beneficiaries, who were printers were defined as those being involved in the creation of words or images. This means that the whole digital world was opened up as an area where the charity could support those in need, who were aged, or those in education. Education is now a major part of The Printing Charity’s work, encouraging new entrants and supporting re skilling.
For the Royal Society of Medicine their original Royal Charter was granted in the reign of William IV. Unusually the Royal Charters granted by Edward VII and Elizabeth II 2nd did not supersede the Charter of William the IVh. This meant that before doing anything, trustees had to refer to 3 Royal Charters plus a Charity Commission scheme. This does not make life easy for trustees, in addition the original charter did not contain charitable objects as we would expect to see them. The New Royal Charter and associated By-laws, mean that trustees now have one document to look at which contains modern charitable objects that reflect the trustee’s vision for the Society as the preeminent provider of post graduate education for health care professionals. As such it is fit to support the trustee’s new strategy for the future.
How did the Institute support your career as a governance professional?
Guidance notes are invaluable and a real time saver. I attended lecture in Park Crescent and Charity Conferences. Throughout my charity career Louise Thomson of CGI has been invaluable.
Words of wisdom for the next generation of governance professionals?
I just try to do what is right and help others do the same. It is a question of personal ethics.
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