Reflections of a trustee by Jon Dean

Meg Wright |

Being a VSSN Trustee

Jon Dean, Sheffield Hallam University

If you are interested in becoming a Trustee of VSSN, or joining the Voluntary Sector Review Editorial Board, please click here. Any issues, please email

When I applied to become a Trustee of the VSSN, and then later volunteered to Chair the organisation, I did not imagine it would involve frantically pushing a wobbly shopping trolley full of drink, cups, and ice over the cobbled streets of Sheffield.

Earlier this month however, as our Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference was in full swing, that’s exactly what the role became. We needed someone to make sure conference dinner attendees were refreshed, everyone else was tied up travelling to the conference or running our New Researchers Welcome Event, and a task needed doing. A visit to Tesco, and some light swearing later, it was complete. That youth worker experience was not wasted.

VSSN aims to advance the field of voluntary sector studies and bring together researchers and practitioners. We want to contribute to the support and development of this field as well as providing a means through which its members can exchange information, share experience, and come together for mutual support. Serving as a Trustee of VSSN has been one of the joys of my professional life. It is fun to meet with people from across the country, some from universities, some from charities and infrastructure organisations, to have ideas about how we best serve our members, by putting on online and face-to-face events. Getting to know people who have different ways of thinking, and then combining to strategize and deliver, has allowed me to use skills I’d forgotten I had.

It hasn’t always been easy. Covid meant our conference in 2020 had to go online, and we had to learn how to do Zoom on a mass scale pretty quickly. Transferring from a charity to a CIO in 2022 was a constitutional conundrum we hadn’t planned for, but chose to do in the best interests of the organisation’s future. Setting up a Small Grants programme to ensure VSSN members were given opportunities to run community events on research issues dear to them was the right thing to do with our funds, but can be a challenge to administer.

But all of these are done as a collective, and when things are frustrating there’s always someone who will step in and help. My favourite ever quote is from The West Wing, uttered by Toby Zeigler at a sanguine moment addressing his team: “Defeats are softened and victories sweetened because we did them together”. The joy that comes from doing good for others and our wider community of practice is enlivened by the fact we deliver as a team.

VSSN relies on its volunteer trustees to make it work. We have one part time employee (Hi Meg!) who does a great job administering and organising us, but it’s the Trustee Board who focus on strategic work, and arranging and coordinating events. We need new volunteers to bring energy and ideas to board meetings (which are always the height of politeness and supportiveness), and to take responsibility for supporting all voluntary sector and volunteering adjacent researchers and practitioners grow this field, and develop personally and professionally.

Full details of the roles we require filling and how to apply can be found here:

If you have any questions about any of these role, please do ask: