Why charity trustees are so important.

Trustees are those men and women that have overall control of a charity and are responsible for making sure it’s doing what it was set up to do. They use their skills and experience to support their charities but don’t usually do the day-to-day running of the charity, its delegated to the staff, although in smaller charities, trustees may well take hands-on roles too.

Trustees also often learn new skills during their time on the board and are in demand, it is estimated that almost half of all charities are looking for trustees at any time.

They are key roles, that you may or may or not have filled, so if you are considering appointing a board of trustees, here are their six main duties:

  • Ensure the charity is carrying out its stated purposes for which it is set up, and no other purpose. These responsibilities include fully understanding the charity’s purpose. Planning what your charity will do, and what you want it to achieve and being able to concisely explain how the charity’s activities are intended support its purpose and how this purpose benefits the public

  • Make sure it complies with your charity’s governing document and charity law requirements and other laws that apply to your charity. Trustees should take reasonable steps to find out about the legal requirements to which the charity must adhere to, for example, keeping charity details registered and sending correct financial data.

  • Act in the charity’s best interests, it might sound simplistic but decisions must be balanced and adequately informed, and consider both the long and short term. Avoid being in any position where duty to the charity conflicts with personal interests or loyalty to other cause or people. Its important not to receive any benefit from the charity unless its properly authorised and in the charity’s interests.

  • Manage the charity’s resources responsibly – they should be used only to support it carry out its purpose, not be riskily used or over committed. There should be close control on not over-committing and special care taken when investing or borrowing. Special care should be taken to steer the charity away from any action likely to make the charity vulnerable to fraud, theft, or any other time of abuse.

  • Act with reasonable care, using all their skills and experience, and give appropriate advice and guidance where required or requested. The role requires time and energy and proper preparation for all meetings and actions

  • Ensure the charity complies with statutory accounting and reporting requirements – and be easily able to demonstrate that you are. Ensure accountability within the charity, particularly where you delegate responsibility or make decisions that impact staff or volunteers

You can read more in the excellent The Essential Trustee , a guide from the Charity Commission.