We spoke to Sir Tom Shebbeare about what he’s learned from 40 years working with charities and not-for-profit organisations
Sir Tom Shebbeare is involved in numerous good causes. As the first Director of The Prince’s Trust and then a volunteer Trustee of over a dozen other charities, his career in the charitable sector has seen him rub shoulders with presidents, princes, pop stars and politicians across the globe.
But how did Sir Tom discover that his passion lay in this field? The answer is volunteering – something which Sir Tom says he would recommend to anyone, no matter what their walk of life.
“I was reasonably competent but hardly an academic child. No good at sport either”, Sir Tom explained. “But by chance and good luck I ended up at a university that enabled me to contribute in a field which suited me.”
Unmotivated by the academic side of student life, Sir Tom volunteered for some of the many things on offer to every student. He was particularly inspired by a group which helped political prisoners to escape South Africa. Together they persuaded Exeter University to provide degree places to two refugees on condition that money could be found to pay for their fees and accommodation.
Sir Tom continued: “There was no shortage of support for our cause so we rapidly raised what was needed. In the process I discovered the essential ingredients of what it takes to help make the world a better place.
“There is nothing to beat a cause which you believe in, a lot of enthusiasm, and a great group of passionate volunteers. That combination can move mountains.”
On leaving Exeter Sir Tom spent seven years with two different charities. World University Service unearthed opportunities for student refugees, and The British Youth Council campaigned for opportunities for those who could not find work.
“At the beginning of the 1970s, unemployment amongst young people was a rarity but by 1980 it was the political and social