Board of Trustees
Become a Trustee
Charity Trustees are the people who serve on the governing body of a charity. They may be known as Trustees, Directors, Board Members, Governors or Committee Members. The principles and main duties are the same in all cases.
Trustees have, and must accept, ultimate responsibility for directing the affairs of a charity, and ensuring that it is solvent, well-run, and meeting the needs for which it has been set up.
Individuals with all kinds of skills can sit on a trustee board from trained accountants and lawyers to experienced parents or carers. The best boards are made up of a wide variety of motivated people all who share a common interest in the charities services and success!
Trustee Board Roles
• Set and maintain vision, mission and values
• Develop strategy
• Establish and monitor policies
• Set up employment procedures
• Ensure compliance with governing document
• Ensure accountability
• Ensure compliance with the law
• Maintain proper fiscal oversight
• Select and support the chief executive
• Respect the role of staff
• Maintain effective board performance
• Promote the organisation.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much time do I need to commit?
The time commitment needed to become a trustee varies from organisation to organisation so it is best to check this when you apply. Most organisations hold committee meetings every couple of months, these are often in the evenings and at a time that is convenient to all members.
Trustees may also volunteer to take on tasks between trustee meetings such as looking at policies, accounts or attending fundraising events.
Sometimes trustees of smaller community groups also play a big role in their operational activities and therefore more time commitment may be required. It is best to check before applying.
What preparation is needed before becoming a Trustee?
It is a good idea to do some research before becoming a trustee for an organisation, if possible read their governing document and accounts. Also talk to existing trustees, staff and service users to find out what the group is about. You may also wish to find out what training is available to trustees before you join.
You should also find out whether your charity is unincorporated or incorporated as this will affect your legal position and responsibilities.
Who is eligible to become a Trustee?
Most people can become a trustee as long as they are over 18, however there are some exceptions for example:
· people who have already been disqualified as company directors
· people who have been convicted of an offence involving dishonesty or deception
People under the age of 18 can be trustees of an incorporated charity but not of an unincorporated charity.
How long does the appointment of a trustee last?
The governing document will usually specify a length of service for a trustee after which time they must stand for re-election. There is not usually a limit to how many times a trustee can be re-elected but check the governing document for more details.
If there are no specifications in the governing document then the appointment continues until the trustee dies, resigns or is removed from the board
Would I have any personal liability for my decisions?
Trustees have ultimate responsibility for the actions of a charity. This can sound scary, however as long as you have made proper informed decisions and followed the rules of the governing document then you won’t need to worry.
More information can be found on the charity commissions website www.charity-commission.gov.uk
Is there support available to trustees?
Support is available to trustees and organisations from your local Council for Voluntary Service (CVS), who can give advice on the role of a trustee and can support trustee boards by providing legal updates, funding information, policy advice etc and can keep you informed of relevant training. In Essex many Volunteer Centres are integrated with their local CVS or will be able to provide contact details.
Additionally, the Charity Commission website is a great a source of information for people thinking about becoming a trustee as well as existing board members.
Interested in becoming a Trustee?
Head to the Volunteering page to see the application process and download the needed forms!