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I’m Rozena Nadeem (pronouns: she/her), one of two Network Engagement Volunteers, and one of two Co-Chairs of ATRD’s Advisory Board meetings. I’ve been part of ATRD for around two years, and have been volunteering for about a year and a half. I was a Trustee and part of a democratic governance committee in University, and am currently a School Governor. I aspire to be a Trustee again in future. I joined and volunteer for ATRD UK as like many others, I’d like to see increased racial diversity on UK Trustee Boards! I also have a general personal and professional interest in EDI, decolonisation, liberation campaigns, and governance, and enjoy meeting and networking with other Trustees of Black and Asian heritage! Outside of professional life, I have lots of hobbies, including creative hobbies, travelling and exercising.


A first-generation Mauritian-British woman born and raised in Epsom, Kandia has a background in brand strategy, marketing and community engagement. With 15 years’ experience working across different sectors, she has spent the last few months volunteering with ATRD as part of their Changemakers programme, as well as working as a project manager on the BAFCA programme.


Born in India, educated in the UK and now working in London, Shiva has much experience living in a multicultural environment and values the benefits it brings. He has brought this passion with him when he joined ATRD and combined it with his technical knowledge to suggest new ideas to help further ATRD’s causes and reach. In his full-time job, he works as a data engineer and he has brought this experience with him while volunteering with ATRD, where he has assisted in the transformation of the BANOs database onto the website, with a focus on maximising accessibility and productivity for the user.

Trustee Interviews: Questions at the Ready

Trustee interviews usually involve a panel of interviewers. They are often led by the CEO or Chair and can include other members of the board, executive directors, volunteers or service users. We often hear that interview processes should be a twoway street. An opportunity for everyone to find out if it’s the right match. Yet, once the panel’s questions are answered, the candidate only has a short time at the end to explore what they are curious about. It makes it even more important to think about what you want to ask before you get there. When you want a glimpse behind the curtain into the real culture of the board and organisation you are considering joining, it’s important to get beyond the rehearsed responses.

Here are some questions we recommend you ask:

What does your induction plan for new trustees look like?

The responses could vary from the relatively informal or “on-the-job” to much more formal induction materials, training and a buddy on the board to support you through the first few meetings. Even if the organisation doesn’t immediately offer up some of the more formal options, it’s worth asking whether they would consider it, particularly when stepping into your first board role. As board interactions have moved increasingly online, these more formal steps have seemed increasingly vital. Without those chats over coffee and lunch, it’s much harder to find organic opportunities to ask the little questions you may have as a newcomer to the charity. That doesn’t mean the charity can’t take steps to create space for them.

What was the last issue that the board disagreed on and how was that issue resolved?

Boards should bring constructive challenge and oversight to the organisation. It’s important to debate the issues and bring out different perspectives in board discussions. A board that struggles to remember the last time there was a difference of opinion is likely to be suffering from groupthink. One that disagrees a lot and struggles to build sufficient consensus to move initiatives forward may well have hit a level of dysfunction that needs an intervention. As with most things, it’s important to strive towards a balance and it’s helpful to know which way a board is leaning before you get around the table.

When it comes to the charity, what’s keeping you up at night?

This is a good way to find out what’s really important to the existing trustees and senior leadership team. I have participated in interview processes where the advert has stated that they are looking for a trustee with particular skills and when you ask the panel what their priorities are, they don’t match up. If you’ve asked for a trustee with diversity and inclusion skills but you’re not worried about whether your staff feel
valued, it doesn’t feature on your strategic plans and you don’t have any internal staff with responsibility in that area yet, you’ve got a mismatch. Maybe there’s a good explanation. Maybe the strategy is coming to the end of its lifespan and they are recruiting you to help set the priorities for the next cycle. Or maybe they see this recruitment as the whole solution. Either way, it’s important to find out. It’s not always about a right or wrong answer. We are all striving to do better. Organisations will be on different points in their journey and it’s for you to decide whether you want to join them for the next stretch.


Sapna Marwaha

Sapna Marwaha is a commercial lawyer and independent consultant with board roles spanning the public, private and non-profit sectors. Her current roles include non-executive director of the Association of Research Managers and Administrators, development board member of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Science and Health and lay member at NHS Blood and Transplant. You can find out more about her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

How Not To Be A Trustee

I’ll start by saying, I am not a trustee, yet…

My name is Laura. I’m 25, a committee member for a charity, an advisory group member for ATRD, an aspiring trustee.

The world of trusteeship opened up to me in my former role, working for a charity who support non-profit Chairs. At first, the word trusteeship was unfamiliar, and dare I say, irrelevant to me. But I soon realised these charity board members were thoughtful, resilient, precise, eager to self-improve people who I really admired. I was inspired by their understanding of the people skills needed for the role, as well as the opportunity to do something to help people, challenging and growing yourself in the process.

Intrigued, I found myself a board sub-committee position (with the help of the ATRD network!) at a charity supporting girls and young women.

I think I started off with an unspoken rule book in my head: principles I had unconsciously subscribed to. They go a little bit like this,

  1. It is important to completely and entirely blend in with the other members of the
    committee – don’t mess up the status quo.
  2. I must be very serious or I’ll be chucked out OR WORSE reveal that I don’t
    have an answer to everything
  3. I obviously must be absolutely and undeniably amazing, exceeding everyone’s
    expectations of myself, despite having never done this before.

Turns out I had (and still have) a few things to unlearn…

Step 1 – Don’t feel like you need to pretend you know when you don’t. I started by trying to keep up, despite not knowing the acronyms. It’s scary how scary it can be to ask questions in an unfamiliar environment. Something I quickly realised was that I would need to find a way to put myself, my fears and my imposter syndrome to the side. Ultimately, this isn’t about me. I am here to support the organisation to achieve their aims, and make the world a better place – focussing on this, alongside the rewards that the role brings, helps me to keep perspective and enjoy being a part of the team.

Step 2 – Consider accountability. Remember this isn’t a job, it’s a voluntary role. I want to perform well and be told within a framework that I know from my day to day job but realistically, I don’t have a manager here – I need to manage myself. I also realise I have to keep myself accountable, what kind of member do I want to be? What do I want to contribute, have I got the knowledge to challenge yet? I now recognise how important this is. How do I want to contribute? How will I assess how I am doing?

Step 3 – Be human and lead with joy. This is something I always tell myself but struggle with. I felt all the pressure of what I thought this role should be, and what the person who succeeds looks like. I am starting to realise all I need to be is myself. Take the opportunity to laugh and smile as much as possible. Once you can let go of your fears, and accept the learning journey – your unique perspective can shine through.

Step 4 – Remember that friends and supporters are everything. I am constantly moved by the kindness of many wonderful people in the voluntary sector, including my committee peers and the ATRD network. If you ask, people are always willing to help you, but you need to start by asking. And there really is no such thing as a stupid question, people are most likely wondering the same thing as you. I now understand that investing time and energy in people, listening and learning from them is the gift that keeps on giving. It will put a smile on your face, and theirs.


Laura Shafi

Becoming a Trustee Amidst a Lack of Diversity

When you’ve always felt like an outcast in life, it’s difficult to imagine yourself in a position of power. The statistics will be against you; that’s how I felt when I considered becoming a trustee. In England and Wales, only 8% of trustees are ethnic minorities, 36% are women and fewer than 3% are under the age of 30 (‘Taken on Trust’, 2017). This left me with a very small chance of becoming a trustee at Mind, the mental health charity.

Surprisingly, things worked out. So here I am, telling my story.

My name is Cynthia Tze Keng Ko. I’ve faced racism and battled chronic depression for most of my life, something I’d never want someone else to experience too. So when Mind was seeking steering group participants with this lived experience, I joined and have continued advising on various topics ever since. From one steering group to the other, I began trusting Mind’s employees. This gave me the confidence to apply for Mind’s Board of Trustees in 2021.

My professional experience in Diversity & Inclusion and involvement in Mind helped me align my application with the organisation’s strategy, but I am especially grateful for a Mind employee who gave me feedback on my cover letter. Getting through the first application round, the board interview and eventually the ballot vote felt surreal to me.

I entered my first board meeting with a heart full of hope and anxiety, knowing that I would be the odd one out. Currently I’m the youngest and only East-Asian trustee. It’s nearly been a year and I still battle with Imposter Syndrome. But I’m questioning my belonging less and less due to good-willing board members and Mind employees who reached out to me, encouraging me to speak up. Even when people felt different to me on the outside, having aligned values drove me forward.

So for those that are fighting the statistics of becoming a trustee: there are good people out there. Connect, seek advice, find your allies. Initiatives such as the Young Trustees Movement, Action for Trustee Racial Diversity UK and Getting on Board have been very helpful to people like me and many others. If we want to change the system, we’ll have to do it together in all our diversity. It’s worth the leap.


Cynthia Tze Keng Ko, Trustee at Mind