Nehir Kirlar Ozel

Trustee at CARIS Islington, a bereavement counselling charity


Nehir had the idea of joining a charity board for a few years. A financial services professional she sees herself moving into a portfolio NED career in the long-term. She had attended a workshop with Women on Boards’ NexGen Directors when employed by Standard Bank through their Corporate Partnership a few years ago, and had starting thinking about joining a charity board alongside her day job. Nehir had researched and prepared further for this step through undertaking further research and some preparatory courses. She also explored opportunities on the Women on Boards Vacancy Board which helped her determine which type of board she was most likely to find success with at this stage in her career.

A cause that resonates

However, it was during the Covid-19 lockdown that she felt she really had the time to pursue a board role, with the hours freed up from commuting and fewer social engagements. At this time, she also heard about an opportunity at CARIS Islington through her business school alumnae network. It seems to be a good fit in terms of the size and type of organisation she was targeting but most importantly the charity resonated with her. She had known friends and family benefit from this type of support.

“It needs to be something dear to your heart. It is a voluntary role and you need an emotional attachment to make the commitment.”

Show your skills

Nehir application made clear what she could bring to the charity, beyond her obvious financial expertise. “My financial skills were the main thing, but I am adept with stakeholder relations and have strong digital knowledge,” she says. “It was important to show that I could contribute across different areas. It is a small organisation, so everyone needs to get stuck in.”

Having quickly adapted to senior meetings taking place virtually online in her executive role, Nehir found her virtual interviews with the board Chair quite comfortable. “I had understood well what the charity does and its situation, so I could be clear why I wanted to join and what I could bring,” she explains. In common practice for the charity sector, Nehir was then invited to observe a board meeting and formally voted on as a trustee.

Finding the right balance

Nearly a year after joining, Nehir finds her trusteeship very rewarding. She has found the board members works well together collectively, despite only meeting in-person last month for the first time. “We are a very ‘young’ board,” she explains, “in that there was a large refresh of board members around the time I joined, so we are all quite new. This makes it more dynamic in many ways.”
With the end of lockdown and a demanding executive role, Nehir has continued to balance her trustee responsibilities. “I wish I could do more at times, and it is a challenge,” she explains, “But I am making a valuable contribution and am excited to take the organisation to another level, supporting more people with their mental health.”

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