Governance, Trustees

Good Governance in Gardening

During Trustee Week, George Knight reflects on his journey from gardening to governance at St Mary’s Secret Garden, and what he's learned so far.

My journey to a trusteeship began when I started looking for volunteer opportunities. I wanted somewhere that would allow me to work outside and develop my own green-fingered skills (there isn’t much opportunity to garden in a one bed flat in Camden!) and I discovered St Mary’s Secret Garden in Hoxton.

The charity aims to advance the education of gardening whilst relieving the needs of people who may be excluded from society. The entire garden is maintained by beneficiaries, supported by a small passionate team of gardeners, occupational therapists and volunteers.

Upon starting my volunteering, I became aware that they were looking for trustees to join the board. Given I had access to an abundance of resources with my role at DSC, I felt well placed to put my name in the hat. The board decided to welcome me and I was appointed in November 2018.

What it entails

Being a trustee is a major responsibility. Despite not necessarily being involved in the charity’s day-to-day activities, the board of trustees are still accountable for those activities as well as holding overall responsibility for ensuring the charity operates correctly and effectively.

A trustee is expected to know their charity and be committed to the cause. They need to recognise that meeting public benefit is an ongoing requirement and be committed to their legal responsibilities through delivering good governance. At my charity there is an expectation that I will also attend one trustee meeting every few months plus the annual general meeting.

Due to their organisations’ size, trustees of small charities may be expected to partake in specific roles, such as fundraising, HR, legal, IT or finance. Certain boards may hire trustees with a certain skillset to ensure that the board is knowledgeable about a diverse range of topics.

How to do it yourself

If you are interested in becoming a trustee, I’d recommend finding somewhere that will allow you to volunteer your time. It’s important to make sure that you can fully engage with the work that you’ll be spending your free time on. It’s very easy to find a volunteering opportunity that sounds good on paper, only for the initial excitement to die off when you realise you’re working on something you’re not completely passionate about.

There are plenty of online resources available to new trustees. The GOV.UK website is the best place for up to date information such as: The Essential Trustee (CC3). Also, you could enrol on DSC’s Duties of a Trustee training course, or purchase a copy of the Charity Trustee’s Handbook.

To find volunteering or trusteeship opportunities, use popular websites such as or vinspired.

Whether you are worrying about the budget or the building costs you have to keep an eye on the butterflies and the bees.

George Knight is a Training Consultant at DSC who supports charities within the sector to do more with less. He helps organisations maximise their resources to deliver high levels of social change. You can follow him on Twitter here