Posted: 4 July, 2023
How did you get involved with Wheels for All?
Funnily enough, my background wasn’t specifically anything to do with cycling, although I was very keen on keeping active! I originally studied Social Sciences but had ended up taking a role at Wigan Leisure & Culture Trust getting and supporting people to become more physically active.
Whilst I was working in Wigan I heard about Wheels for All (called Cycling Projects at the time) and how they were developing a range of programmes to get people active. When I met up with Ian (Ian Tierney – CEO of Wheels for All) I was incredibly impressed by him and his mission to get people with physical or learning disabilities to be more active through cycling. Then Hermine, of Wheels for All Salford, came to give a talk at my workplace.
Ian was really keen to get me involved … and he can be very persuasive! I had a hectic work schedule at the time, but I was keen too, and so I joined the Board of Trustees in 2008 … not knowing then that I would stay for 15 years!
Not that long after I joined the evolving board, the current chair was stepping down – I certainly didn’t have any aspirations about becoming the chair, but it just sort of happened!
What makes up a great Board of Trustees?
You want a good mix. Different people who will bring different skills to the table. That’s the most important thing – you need that breadth of expertise.
People need to have a certain level of commitment and be willing to get involved. They also need to be clear on what the role involves. Someone may have started out by helping as a volunteer, but then they can bring different skills to underpin what we do, how we keep bringing value to the infrastructure. It suits folk who want to be doing something meaningful.
Some of our trustees are retired or semi-retired, but if we had board meetings during the day, those who did work struggled to attend, so we moved them to the evenings, put on a bit of food, and that’s been a good way to bring people together.
Actually, the pandemic created different opportunities from a trustee perspective, where we started to bring people together from all over England, becoming much less Warrington-centric. The board really opened up and it has definitely been easier – having a reach more far and wide – to get the right match and the right mix.
The suggested term is 3 years, but it’s easy to stay for longer! I mean, look at me! As for Veronica, she has been on the board since the 1990s – she’s a keeper!
What does the role involve?
Oh crikey, all sorts of things! All aspects associated with the running of the organisation. Finance and funding. The nuts and bolts of all the different programmes. Safety. Personnel. Sometimes it’s about particular projects, or looking for seed funding for new avenues of work. Projects are easier for funding, the big infrastructure is harder.
Overall it is about providing support and good governance. We are here as a sounding board. The responsible people, I suppose! Having a board of trustees helps Ian – we can give direction and support, or challenge him. The mix brings a kind of shared wisdom.
Do you work with other organisations?
We do indeed – it’s important to build good relationships with other bodies, and we have really seen some of those starting to flourish. A great example is Sport England, who have been incredibly supportive of what we do, getting people more active, especially people who may have few opportunities to do so.
We also work with British Cycling, Sustrans, Cycling UK (CTC – the Cyclists’ Touring Club), Leonard Cheshire, Mencap and lots of local councils and not-for-profit organisations. All have had a part to play in how we have developed over the years.
What would you say to someone who thinks they might like to become a trustee?
Do it! Get in touch. And you don’t have to be a cycling nut! Even when we talk about attracting people who are ‘working in the sector’, that ‘sector’ is incredibly broad – it could be social care, sport or exercise, or a charity. Realise the potential contribution you could make.
Are you sad to leave?
Of course I am! … but I’m taking some of my transferable skills into a new voluntary role, doing admin for my local Buddhist Meditation Centre.
I will definitely be keeping in touch with lots of people. And I know I am leaving the board in great hands. Paul Alcock, who has taken over from me as chair, is very dynamic and engaging, he will do a great job.
And I got a fabulous parting gift! Ian came up to see me for a spot of lunch and presented me with an engraved bicycle bell! It’s a fabulous keepsake to remind me of my time with Wheels for All. The charity will always be very close to my heart and I have absolutely loved my time on the board of trustees.