Governance – National Tramway Museum

National Tramway Museum received consultancy support from AIM’s Prospering Board programme earlier this year. We spoke to Karen Rigg, Chair of Tramway Museum Society, to find out how Prospering Boards has supported a wider governance review.

What was the challenge with your Board?

Our participation in the Prospering Boards programme enabled us to complete a journey that began in mid 2016 and that has taken perseverance and determination.

The journey started when we successfully completed an application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a full governance review. The Tramway Museum Society is a registered charity and company limited by guarantee and was originally formed in 1955. Two of our founder members are still with us. Many of our Articles were based on the originals, which had served us well for 60 years. However, times, best practice and standards change, and we needed to modernise to stay sustainable.

As part of the process many seminars and consultation meetings with our members took place. If we were to achieve the change that we needed, we had to carry our members with us. In January 2019 we were just about ready to redefine the purposes of our Charity and begin the legal process of developing our new constitution. A key part of this was to enable us, for the first time in our history, to have people who were not Society members to serve on our Board. The advantages to us of this change would be huge, new skills, new people, and maybe more diversity.

At an Extraordinary General Meeting in September 2020 these changes were passed by the membership, and so began the process of finding and recruiting our external Board members.

To be honest I was feeling a little daunted by this. Then came the opportunity to apply for the Prospering Boards programme.

Can you tell us about the process you went through with the consultant?

I worked with Heather Lomas, who was incredibly supportive. Heather found me several ‘prototype’ documents that I could work with and together we developed an enticing role description, person specification and advert. I have recruited employees on many occasions, but this had to be different, and Heather helped me to see that difference very clearly.

After the advertisements were placed and responses started to come in, Heather and I discussed selection processes and a thorough one was developed.

As a result of all this the Tramway Museum Society appointed its first three external Board members in September 2021 and so far they seem to be settling in well.

What advice would you share with other AIM members facing a similar challenge?

I think the advice that I would give to anyone is don’t be afraid to seek help. None of us can know everything, I know that it seems like we are expected to at times, but we can’t. There are people out there who will help us to learn the skills that we need and fill those gaps. The AIM Prospering Boards programme is an excellent source of that support.