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Why you should become a board member

22nd May 2024

Voluntary roles, such as joining a Board of Trustees or a committee, can be a valuable and rewarding experience. Read on to hear from three members of the Music Mark staff team, as they share why they volunteer as board and committee members and what it involves.


Can you describe what your board role is and what it entails?

Laura Hailstone, Training & Events Manager: I’ve been a trustee since 2020 for the Big Difference Company (BDC), a charity which grew out of the Leicester Comedy Festival and whose aims are to promote the arts, education & health & wellbeing. My responsibility, alongside the wider board, is to ensure the charity is carrying out the purposes for which it exists, setting direction and deciding what we want it to achieve, and providing support to the CEO and delivery team.

I also chair a smaller board within the wider structure which oversees our commercial activity. I usually have to attend 6-7 board meetings and our AGM each year, although at times unplanned meetings are scheduled where necessary to discuss specific issues. As a delivery-focused organisation, I also attend the festival and other events throughout the year.

Chris Buglass, Membership & Operations Director: I am fortunate enough to be the Chair of one of the current Music Education Hub Advisory Boards in the North East of England. A Hub Advisory Board is quite different to a Board of Trustees, in that it is responsible for the strategic function of a partnership, rather than a single organisation. My role as an Independent Chair is key in providing assurances to ACE that there is sufficient and high-quality scrutiny of the Music Education activity that they fund in our area. 

Sarah Whitfield, Research Lead: I’m on the MusicHE committee which is very much like a board – the main difference is that everyone on our committee is working in some way in music in higher education. Usually on boards you don’t have to directly be in the same industry or sector as the charity – and often that’s better! My role is essentially ‘data’, which means that I’m bridging my job with Music Mark and my job as an academic – and thinking about the wider ecosystem of the whole sector.

We have meetings every two months, and an annual conference. I also sometimes represent MusicHE at events.


Why did you decide to become a board member?

LH: I had been considering applying to join a board for some time because I thought it would be a great way to use my skills and experience to give something back, however I didn’t really know where to start! I struggled with imposter syndrome, questioning whether I had what was needed to support an organisation and whether any would even consider my application. The opportunity arose to apply to BDC and whilst those doubts continued I decided to be brave and go for it.

It was important to me that I was aligned with the vision and mission of any organisation I applied to, and I particularly wanted it to be something which benefits my local area and allows me to support that community and enable opportunities.

I was really pleased to join BDC as it met these conditions!

SW:  In a previous role I’d been supported by MusicHE and I thought I really better return the favour! But I thought I had skills that might be useful, and so I put my name in for an election that was happening for new committee members.

CB: Having worked for a Lead Partner in a Music Education Hub for several years, I took a job with a Refugee and Asylum Seeker charity and after a while, found that I really missed working in music education. When I saw the vacancy for an Independent Hub Chair, it felt like a perfect opportunity to be involved again. I’ve received comments in the past from people who don’t understand why I would give up my time to join a board. There are many reasons, personal and professional, why I and many others volunteer our time for boards, whether they are charity boards, advisory boards, school governor boards, community initiatives and other projects that require leadership and scrutiny.

It needs to be acknowledged that there is a reciprocal element to voluntary working and that whilst organisations and partnerships benefit from people giving their time for free, providing a wide range of skills, views and abilities that would otherwise be difficult to access, those who do volunteer their time also benefit from it.


What do you gain from being a board member?

CB: I am so happy to be able to give my time to make a difference in the lives of young people and their families in my local community.

Working in music education, the ultimate goal is to enable children and young people to make music attending the great events that my Hub puts on and seeing the joy and talent on display is a real privilege.

Joining a board is a great way to meet like-minded people and I am very grateful for the relationships this role has made possible.

SW: The chance to work with people from all different kinds of institutions, to hear different viewpoints and gain new understanding about the value and importance of music in universities. All our meetings are online so I can’t say the biscuits!

LH: I enjoy being part of something positive and being able to use my brain differently from how I do at work. There has been lots of learning, and every challenge we encounter gives me new experiences and understanding. It’s allowed me to meet and work with new people, from outside of my previous social and work circles.


Why should others consider applying for board roles?

SW: Because everyone has valuable experience that they can bring to boards, our lived experience will be unique, and will help us think about big strategic questions in unique ways. It gives us a chance to take part in the life of charities or organisations in new ways, and can lead you into all sorts of new conversations with different people.

LH: Because they undoubtedly have something brilliant to offer! I wish that I’d had the confidence to apply earlier and recognised that I had valuable experience to share. If you are considering applying to join a board, give it a go! Do some research into what it involves ( has lots of helpful information), find out what the commitment expectations are, recognise what you can bring to it and talk to your friends and colleagues, they will be able to help you identify those skills if you’re not sure.

CB: From a professional perspective, joining a board is a great opportunity to develop a wide range of skills and learn from new experiences. It feels very rewarding to put my previous experiences to good use, accessing opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to, and supporting my career ambitions whilst also working to the benefit of the local community.

For anyone considering joining a board, I would say that it is a very rewarding experience, but it can involve a significant commitment of time and it is something which should be carefully considered. And for those creating new boards, I would urge you to invest in your board. They will be a key source of support and leadership as the music education sector enters a new phase and strong boards will only enhance the work of Music Hubs. To that end, I would urge all boards to access as wide a range of voices and experience as possible and to work as inclusively as possible to help bring music-making opportunities to children and young people across the country.


If you’re interested in joining a Board, visit our Jobs page to browse current vacancies. Music Mark Members can advertise voluntary roles on the Jobs page free of charge by submitting the vacancy here. You can also visit the Getting On Board website to learn more about becoming a charity trustee, as well as information for charities about recruiting a diverse range of trustees.