How do I become a charity trustee?
Charity trusteeship makes a vital contribution to society and contributes expertise to great causes while benefiting from being in leadership.
What are the duties of a charity trustee?
Trustees have the overall legal responsibility for a charity. They must ensure that the charity has a clear vision and strategy and its work and goals are also in line with its legal constitution. The overriding duty of all charity trustees is to advance the purposes of their charity and put the needs of the beneficiaries first.
The broad duties of charity trustees are:
- Ensuring the charity is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit. The interests of the charity are paramount. Trustees should not allow personal interests or views to override this: they must exercise independent judgement.
- Comply with your charity’s governing document and the law. Trustees must operate within the legal and regulatory frameworks for example, Charities Act 2011, and must also operate according to the governing document which may be called a constitution or the trust deed.
- Act in the charity’s best interests. The interests of the charity are paramount. Trustees must make balanced and informed decisions, thinking about the short-term and longer-term needs. They should not allow their personal interests or views to override this: they must exercise independent judgement.
- Manage your charity’s resources responsibly. Trustees must act responsibly, reasonably and honestly in all matters relating to their charity. This is sometimes called the duty of prudence. Prudence is about exercising sound judgement. Trustees must safeguard and protect the assets of the charity.
- Act with reasonable care and skill. This duty will be greater if a trustee has, or claims to have, any special knowledge or experience, or if their business or profession means that they can reasonably be expected to have special knowledge or experience.
- Ensure your charity is accountable. Trustees must comply with the law, regulations including statutory accounting and reporting requirements, fundraising requirements and tax requirements.
How does the role pan out?
Trustees work collectively as a board and take decisions at formal board meetings. Once a decision has been collectively made all trustees are bound to support that decision.
Trustees need to meet often enough to ensure that they are carrying out their responsibilities properly. The constitution may contain details about how, and how often, trustees’ meetings should be called and held and whether, for example, decisions can be made without the need for a meeting. Most trustee boards meet four to eight times a year.
Many boards delegate the day-to-day running of the charity to the chief executive and senior management team, and/or to board subcommittees. Regardless of how much day-to-day work is delegated from them, the trustee board retain overall legal responsibility and may only delegate as far as their governing document or the relevant legislation allows them to.