Connect with non-profits seeking volunteer financial skills
Laura Walker — being a trustee turbo-boosted my learning
Chartered Accountant (CA) with ICAEW (2009)
Senior Director - Finance Transformation, ASDA
Trustee & Treasurer of Citizens Advice Leeds and Older Citizens Advocacy York. Previously Trustee & Treasurer of Community Furniture Stores group of charities
“People are living in desperate situations and finding it almost impossible to navigate through a system that seems stacked against them — both charities I work with help people find ways through that”
How did you get involved in volunteering?
I’ve always had an interest in the voluntary sector and during COVID, like many people, I felt drawn to do something more socially worthwhile. I took up a trustee rolewith a small charity in York and supported for a year with their post-Covid opening and returning to business as usual. I then continued to look for more opportunities to get involved in volunteering as my kids started school. After thinking carefully about the causes I was most interested in, I was very fortunate when two opportunities in social justice came up in 2022 so I relished the opportunity to get stuck in at Citizens Advice and OCAY.
What do you most enjoy about volunteering?
I love meeting lots of different skills and diverse perspectives. My fellow trustees at both charities are fascinating people who teach me an awful lot and I also get to meet staff members and clients who inspire me and give me energy to drive change.
What has been your proudest moment as a volunteer?
Reading the stories of our clients always makes me proud. People are living in desperate situations and finding it almost impossible to navigate through a system that seems stacked against them — both charities I work with help people find ways through that, deliver financial and wellbeing benefits for clients and help people to improve their lives. I play a very small part in that, but it makes me incredibly proud.
What has been the toughest time volunteering?
I think that sometimes there’s a misconception that charities are all nicey nicey soft and fluffy organisations but often there are tough challenges. One particular challenge was dealing with a very complex HR issue, for which I’d been brought in as an independent trustee. Anything involving people’s lives and careers can be really tough — so that was a challenging time — but it was important to remember the role of a trustee is to protect the interests of the charity and bearing that in mind really helped.
How have your accountancy skills come into play?
My current trusteeships are at the complete opposite ends of the trustee spectrum — OCAY is very hands on. I get to review the bank recs and prepare the management accounts and that gives me huge geeky accounting satisfaction. Citizens Advice is much more at the arms length/ NED end of trusteeship — which allows me to be much more strategic, risk focussed and deploy the governance skills I’ve learned from my finance career.
What have you learnt from volunteering?
So much! After a varied career in finance, I thought I’d learned a lot — but being a trustee turbo boosted that. I’ve learned about governance and how to run a charity. But I’ve also learned about strategy and how to drive an organisation forward from some very inspiring fellow trustees.
What would be your one piece of advice for accountants looking to volunteer?
Find a cause you really care about. Volunteering is amazing but it requires dedication and energy and you won’t do that if you don’t deeply care about the cause. Think about what you’re passionate about then find a cause in that space.
How can get more accountants volunteering?
I think one of the biggest barriers is finding the right opportunities and showcasing them — so I’m thrilled that Charterpath are connecting accountants to volunteer roles. It’s brilliant to have a bespoke finance platform to find the right opportunities for our skill sets.