Penny Wilson, CEO, Getting on Board

Penny Wilson (she/her) CEO, Getting on Board

Getting on Board exists to make charity trusteeship more accessible, effective and inclusive by raising awareness of trusteeship, particularly within under-represented communities, and by helping trustees to have impact. We do this primarily through our free guides and training. We work with trustees, aspiring trustees and people who work with trustees.

Why is the work you do important?

Trustee boards don’t reflect the communities that charities serve. Only a third of trustees are women, a third are aged under 50, 8% are people of colour (compared to 14% of the population) and 25% are from households under the median for household income. That’s simply not good enough. Currently, the people most likely to access many services provided by charities are least likely to serve on their boards. It’s also an own goal for the charity sector: think of all of that talent we’re missing. Then, once people become trustees, they are generally quite unsupported. 

How did you get to where you are today?

By only applying for jobs that I thought would be fulfilling. It’s as good a strategy as any! I’ve taken the odd wrong turn, but even those taught me something.

My first two full-time jobs were in charities which support other charities (the Charity Retail Association and a voluntary action organisation). That has shaped everything about my career path. I just love the multiplier effect of how practical, well-designed support can then help charities to do their work even more effectively.

What are your top three values and how do they influence the way you lead? 

Be straightforward, be kind and big others up. I’ve sought to work in places where the culture aligns with that. Those values make working life enjoyable, and it means that the nonsense around ego and politics doesn’t get in the way as much, although we all have our ‘prat’ moments. I would hate to work somewhere where you’re having to put on a show all of the time.

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt on your leadership journey?

Never stop learning.  I think it’s dangerous to think we know everything there is to know about something. It breeds arrogance and complacency and, logically, I don’t think it can ever be true. 

Also, being curious brings me real joy. 

What’s the most courageous leadership move you’ve made?

Leaving a job (and a trustee role) when I knew it wasn’t going to work. I think your gut is normally right.

What leadership development do you think you and your staff need most right now?

This is a bit operational – we’re really struggling with our CRM, Hubspot. It’s super clever, but we can’t work it out!

One piece of advice you’d wished you’d received 10 years ago?

Be braver.

One piece of content you’d recommend..

I love Caitlin Moran, anything written by her is pure genius. She’s challenging and funny about the place of women in our society.

How can we support the next generation to develop into leaders of the future?

Let them do it their way. Avoid preaching at all costs. Only give advice if specifically asked. What can we know about what leaders of the future will need?

Want to stay connected to Getting on Board?  Then follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter. And connect with Penny on LinkedIn.

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