What is BASC Council all about?
I am now in my fifth year as a BASC Council member. While my experience in the third sector as a non-executive director gave me a background in what the role should be, I certainly underestimated both the multifaceted nature of the role and, through it, quite how much one could gain in terms of skills and experience.
As we will have three seats available in the council elections in June 2020, I felt it would be appropriate to provide anyone who is thinking of standing with a personal view of where we are now and what the role involves.
What does BASC Council do?
Essentially, council oversees the ‘governance framework’ within which BASC operates. We set the strategy and approve policy. Personally, I find the fact that we set the direction of travel both exciting and challenging.
Apart from holding the chief executive (CEO) to account, council members have no direct operational involvement, unless invited to sit on interview or tender panels. The CEO and his executive team prepare and deliver reports on their areas to council.
Council is collectively responsible for decision making in a range of areas. Some members sit on committees that are ‘advisory’ by nature. I chair the Executive & Finance (E&F) committee, which is delegated to reduce the time burden on council. Members of the E&F committee must undertake 20 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) – as approved by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – in order to be recognised as fit and proper persons.
It is recognised that not all council members have the time required for this, hence the delegation.
The evolution of BASC Council
The role of council has changed a lot over the years. And with the CEO, and the new chairman and vice chair, we have a skillset that will allow us to set agendas rather than react to events; we now have an outward focus that is refreshing.
I feel there is more focus on the bigger picture now, too; we waste less time getting hung up on unimportant details. For example, as chairman of the E&F committee, I was initially frustrated by the amount of time spent debating whether we should approve the budget for something like a pattern plate that cost less than £30. Now the focus is on having a balanced budget which delivers our strategic objectives, making maximum use of all financial resources and delivering more for our membership as a result. It is a more proactive approach, adding value to all that we do rather than working to maintain a status quo.
What it takes to be a council member
We meet ten times a year from early morning to mid-afternoon. Most of these meetings are at Marford Mill, so attendance does involve an element of travel. I find it takes me half a day to read council papers before we meet, although these are becoming more focused.
Many council members will also sit on committees relevant to their professional expertise or interests, for which agendas have to be set and minutes agreed. These committees meet with varying frequency. For example, I chair the Northern Ireland Committee, which meets on a quarterly basis and acts as a sounding board for local members on matters of strategy and policy.
In terms of expertise required, council members do not need to be experts in the field of shooting – BASC employs the best experts. However, I think it is important to be passionate about the sport and its conservation links, love the countryside and have a respect for its traditions and the rural way of life.
As, essentially, a non-executive director, the ability to exercise governance oversight would be preferable, as would a professional background relating to some aspect of the management of a medium-sized organisation with a multi-million pound turnover.
There’s much to be gained I never cease to be amazed by the dedication and professionalism of our staff and the commitment shown by our many volunteers. Being on council allows one to see the contribution BASC makes across the UK. Now I am no longer in paid employment, I still believe in lifelong learning and I am constantly learning something new about our sport. However, for those in the early stages of their career, there is the benefit of involvement in strategic planning and policy formulation. While this can enhance your CV, it may also be a selling point to your employer to facilitate time off for council duties.
While we are all ambassadors for shooting, there is immense satisfaction to be gained from giving something back.