Charity Trustees

Charity trustees are the people legally responsible for the overall management and decision-making in a charity (they might be called something else - a member of the management or executive committee, a governor, a director etc). Other than in exceptional circumstances, trustees are volunteers.

What Charity Trustees Do?

Trustees are responsible for the direction and performance of their charity.

If a charity has few or no staff they may be directly involved in the day-to-day running of the charity. If it is a larger charity staff will usually carry out the work of the charity and the trustees will be responsible for monitoring and controlling their activities.

It can be a challenging role. If something goes wrong in the charity's work or finances the trustees bear ultimate responsibility - both legal and financial. But it can also be extremely interesting and rewarding, giving you the chance to exercise existing skills and develop new ones.

Who Can Be A Charity Trustee?

No-one under the age of 18 can be appointed as a trustee, and some people are disqualified by law from acting as charity trustees. This includes:

  • anyone who has been convicted of an offence involving deception or dishonesty, unless the conviction is spent anyone who is an undischarged bankrupt
  • anyone who has previously been removed from trusteeship of a charity by the court or the Charity Commissioners
  • anyone who is under a disqualification order under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986.

What Are The Qualities Needed To Be A Charity Trustee?

"Trustees need to be able - and willing - to give time to the efficient administration of the charity and the fulfilment of its trusts. We recommend they be selected on the basis of their relevant experience and skills and must be prepared to take an active part in the running of the charity."  The Charity Commission

Before Becoming A Charity Trustee

Make sure that you find out as much as possible about a charity before becoming a trustee. Meet other trustees and ask about the charity's activities, finances, funding and the nature and condition of any property it owns.

It can also be helpful to meet key members of staff, and to ask people from other agencies for their experiences or working with the charity in question. You should also make yourself fully aware of a trustees legal and financial liabilities.

How Long Will I Have To Be A Charity Trustee?

The charity's governing document might specify a length of service - normally several years.

Can Service Users Be Charity Trustees?

Yes. Users of the charity's service can offer a valuable perspective as trustees.

However, users interested in being trustees should be aware of any conflicts of interest that might occur. These might form the basis of their application for trusteeship being rejected.

Specific Roles

Most trustee boards will have a Chair, normally appointed from the existing trustees, and a Treasurer.

Many charities find it hard to recruit people with sufficient experience and knowledge to carry out the duties of Treasurer - which can vary considerably depending on the size and nature of the organisation - so if you have a financial/accounting background you will probably find yourself very much in demand!

If you are thinking about becoming a charity trustee contact one of our Charity Team for a chat.