Sharing strategy skills

Avatar for Janet Gee
By Janet Gee

Skills and knowledge developed in our professional lives can be very helpful as a trustee. Janet Gee shows how her work led her to volunteer for CPRE Warwickshire.

My heart has always been in the countryside. I grew up on a smallholding, so I was surrounded by nature and greenery from an early age. People say the countryside is quiet but it really isn’t: go for a walk in spring and you’ll hear blackbirds in the hedgerows, skylarks singing high above and the wind rushing through the grass. I’m always out there, walking, cycling, birdwatching, and if I’m not in the countryside I miss it!

My work has connected me with rural life, too. I was Chief Executive of the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs for five and a half years. After that, I became involved with our local parish council, which I currently chair. The council is in Green Belt and CPRE Warwickshire are fairly active here, working to look after our wonderful part of the West Midlands. One day they invited council members to their AGM, so I went along. I was inspired by this group of people who were so passionate about the countryside and decided to become a member, and then a trustee.

Planning our future

I loved everyone’s enthusiasm and thought about how I could help the group become even more effective. We had plenty of planning skills but there were some gaps in our work, such as dealing with litter or promoting the countryside and getting people out walking and cycling. And most importantly, we needed a plan to focus and make the most of our eagerness. We also needed some succession planning, to make sure that the skills we had within the group, such as responding to planning applications, get passed on.

So I drew on my management experience, and understanding of parish councils and the planning system to improve the way we work. I was very impressed with CPRE’s national strategic plan, so I drafted our own local version which I hope will be adopted soon. A strategy helps an organisation like ours understand what its aims are and therefore what skills it might need from potential volunteers. It also means you can measure how well you’re doing. Our strategy shows us how to use our resources wisely. For example, we can’t possibly respond to every planning application, but we can train people in parish councils to do so.

Time well spent

I spend around one day a week volunteering for CPRE Warwickshire but I expect to be devoting more time to this in future. At the moment I work for myself, giving financial advice, but I’m planning what I want to do when I retire. People tend to find themselves busier when they stop work but one of the perks of retirement is that you choose what you want to do! So I’m looking forward to devoting more time to this, and leaving a positive legacy: it’s good to feel you’ve done something useful with your time on the planet.

I’d definitely recommend volunteering with CPRE because it’s such a great cause. We don’t own the countryside, we steward it for future generations. So we need to encourage everyone to take pride in it, and once they experience that connection, they’ll take care of it too.

Could you spare some time to volunteer for your local CPRE and stand with the countryside that you love? Learn more about the experience of volunteering for CPRE, the countryside charity, or drop us a line: volunteeringteam@cpre.org.uk.

Chesterton Windmill in winter
Chesterton Windmill, Warwickshire Shutterstock