Being a trustee at The Vegan Society

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In this blog, the Supporter Services team ask some of our existing trustees about their experiences.

Annual General Meeting – Member power

The 2024 Annual General Meeting takes place on Saturday 18 May, and we look forward to welcoming as many members as possible on the day. The Vegan Society is a membership organisation, and our members can influence the direction of the charity by bringing a motion to the AGM and voting on motions either by proxy, ahead of the AGM or at the AGM itself. The AGM is a very good opportunity to meet our board of trustees and the CEO and help us celebrate our work and future plans!

We are looking for new trustee applications by Friday 1 March 2024. Key qualities for all trustees are commitment, enthusiasm and the ability to consider issues thoughtfully, communicate effectively and work well with others. To ensure effectiveness and diversity, members from a wide range of backgrounds and with a broad base of skills and experience are sought. You can find out more about applying at the end of this blog.

Charity graphicsWhat is a trustee?

Charity trustees are volunteers who share responsibility for governing a charity and directing how it is managed and run. Central to this is ensuring a charity is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit and planning and reviewing its work on a regular basis.

The role involves overseeing the operating principles (how an organisation is managed and run) set out in The Articles of Association. The Vegan Society is both a charity and a company limited by guarantee.

Who's on our board of trustees?

Work meeting photographYou can view our trustees and their full profiles on The Vegan Society Council of Trustees page

As a member, you can access the minutes from the regular Council meetings if you are interested in looking at what is discussed.

The Supporter Services team met some of our existing trustees (David Gore, Paula Feehan, Chris McLaren and Joe Hughes) and asked them some questions about their experiences.

What was your motivation in applying to be a trustee?

David: I had previously been a trustee of an environmental NGO for 10 years and wanted to continue in a role like that, one that matched my core beliefs even better. The opportunity comes up every year for full Vegan Society members to apply each time. I was very fortunate to make it on to Council the first time I applied. 

              Vegan Society Treasurer holding sign saying 'Did your dinner have eyes?' sign

Chris: My highest passion is to help stop the exploitation and consequent abuses of other animals and thus TVS, being a globally influencing, and the first vegan charity, as well as such a large organisation, appealed to me.

The motivation to become a trustee came from already having been a trustee on two local charity boards and knowing that this aspect of an organisation can help its full and improved functioning; having a team of people with an overview seems to improve practice. Additionally, being a board member generally, but especially with TVS being such a trusted and respected organisation, helps to be heard in some external conversations and situations.

Vegan Society Trustee, Christine

Joe: I was looking for ways to use the skills I had built in my professional life for something beyond financial gain. I ultimately wanted to do 'something good' out in the world, and the opportunity to become a trustee for a charity I had supported for a number of years seemed like a perfect choice!

Paula: After being a vegan for over 10 years and enjoying everything about it, I wanted to contribute to even more people becoming vegan and thriving, and The Vegan Society seemed like a perfect way to be able to contribute to this change. 

What would you say to someone who is interested in applying?

David: Absolutely do apply. You get to understand the workings of the society so deeply as a trustee, and you develop strategic and governance skills it would take decades to acquire in the workplace normally. There is training for all successful applicants, so no one should feel they won't be equipped to serve.

Chris: If unfamiliar with being on a board, then it will be a life skill that travels with you, or if you already know this way of 'being' then you will still be doing what you can to help the other animals, planet and of course people; I believe you will benefit in ways yet unknown.

I'd say to definitely apply if there's the space and time. For me, there was a lot to learn. Often the language at the meetings and the general functioning was very different to my previous experiences but one learns, is supported and trained, as well as meeting some very brilliant people who have the same philosophical outlook as one's own (on these matters, at least).

Joe: It can be quite daunting applying for a board role whether it be your first board role, or maybe you have concerns over the workload. My advice would be to reach out to a current member of the council for an informal chat. I spoke with Stephen Walsh – the council secretary at the time. He provided me with some great advice and eased any concerns I had.

Paula: It's a great opportunity to learn about the growing vegan economy and the pertinent issues relevant to vegans, and you get to work with, and learn from, a wonderful group of people on The Vegan Society Council, a very talented group of people on the Senior Leadership Team and the CEO. 

Person writing the word 'skills' on whiteboard

What do you find rewarding about the role?

David: The first of the two most rewarding aspects is knowing the stewardship of this 80-year-old society remains true to its origins and core beliefs as we adapt to a changing world. The second is getting to hear about all the exciting, upcoming plans that the fantastic TVS team think up, just that little bit ahead of every other vegan on the planet. It feels really special to have to keep a 'little secret' for a while all the time.

Chris: The sense of being part of a worldwide movement and having an effect give a sense of actually being able to 'do something more'. The pleasure of learning how TVS functions and its policies and procedures, as well as meeting some of the extremely talented staff and exploring the organisation's structure has been interesting.

The face-to-face meeting, with most of the other trustees, was a highlight and really lovely; resultant work felt rewarding. TVS has a voice that is heard in halls of power as well as on the ground; therefore, as an animal rights activist, in other ways, this added another string to my bow. 

Joe: Working with a large group of vegans all working towards the goal of promoting and growing veganism is a wonderful feeling. To be surrounded by like-minded individuals and learn from those who have been advocating veganism well beyond my years!

Paula: Each Council meeting, I find I learn something interesting, I contribute something to support decision making and deepen my understanding about how to navigate the issues relating to a dynamic organisation that is working for the benefit of non-human and human animals. 

Passion led us here written on a path imageWhy might a member wish to attend the AGM?

David: At the beginning of TVS's existence, the AGM was a time when all the disparate vegans in the UK and around the world were offered the chance to come together in person and discuss all things vegan. With the advancement of technology and social media that necessity has lessened. That said, there is still much to be gained from attending the AGM, seeing and speaking with people you may only know online and holding the elected Council to account for their work that past year (or longer if a member so wishes). The society belongs to each of us after all.

Chris: It is a members’ organisation, and the more in attendance the better. The board must rightfully be open and held to account but also feel supported by the members showing an additional interest in the work. This is a space for questions and resolutions to be considered and voted upon by all those that have a 'buy in' to TVS.

In other words, I feel that it's the best place as a member to 'have your say'. Even though the members can vote before the AGM, there is something exciting about the 'live' results and being part of the whole; simply being there is thus a positive contribution.

Joe: All members of the society have a voice. We take the opinions, issues and resolutions of our members extremely seriously and spend a considerable amount of time discussing what is raised. The AGM is a good starting point to get a feel of this.

Paula: Please do come along to the AGM – it is an interesting couple of hours where you get an opportunity to understand the critical issues facing The Vegan Society, and you get to vote on these very issues. You also get a chance to visually see who is on the Council and the senior leadership of The Vegan Society. 

The word 'Vote' spelled out in scrabble letters

Can you provide examples of times when members have positively influenced the direction of the society?

David: Yes. Members influence the society all the time, be that a letter into the editor of The Vegan magazine, or to Council via the Chair or at the AGM. Members are also able to submit motions to the AGM for consideration by all, should they feel a change to our work is warranted.

In the recent past, members have added Paul Higgins as a Society Ambassador, strengthened the rules on governance expenditures by the Society and reinvigorated the society's work around helping elderly vegans in need.

All of these have improved the society and would not have happened as they did without members’ input. 

Joe: The ability for members to vote on all resolutions gives them a strong influence over the society's work and future.

Paula: Members’ contributions are crucial, as this organisation is here to represent and reflect your needs as a vegan, so we need to hear your voice!

Can I be a trustee?

Yes! We welcome applications from members of the society for membership of the governing Council (board of directors) of The Vegan Society by Friday 1 March 2024.

Candidates for trustee roles must have been full members of the society for at least a year and be aged 16 or over on the date of appointment. Candidates should support the society’s objectives and mission and be committed to a vegan lifestyle. Experience in finance/accounting, audit/risk management, charity law or acting as a treasurer is particularly welcome. 

The role is voluntary, but reasonable expenses can be claimed. Currently, the time commitment is monthly meetings usually lasting three hours. However, this may change if it's deemed sensible to return to office meetings, which would be less frequent but longer. Relevant guidance is provided, and training would be approximately one and a half days per year. Emails may sometimes take a few hours per week, particularly in approaching a Council meeting or Annual General Meeting. 

Person typing on laptopFurther information

For a candidate pack or further information about becoming a trustee, please contact the CEO (ceo[at]vegansociety[dot]com) or Council Secretary (council.secretary[at]vegansociety[dot]com) by email or by post (Donald Watson House, 21 Hylton Street, Birmingham, B18 6HJ).  The candidate pack can also be downloaded from   


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