Do you have what it takes to be a Charity Trustee?

Published: 02 Nov 2017 By Trustees' Week

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Do you have what it takes to be a charity trustee?

Luckily for you, almost anyone can become a charity trustee, which is great news for anyone looking for a new challenge or to further their professional development. If you’re unfamiliar with what a charity trustee is and what the role means in practice, we’ve highlighted the key things you need to know below. 
 

What is a charity trustee?

Trustees are the heart and soul of a charity, and are largely unpaid volunteers working hard to help a cause that matters to them. Their role is similar to a board member in a company and they are responsible for overseeing the delivery of a charity’s good deeds and ensuring it succeeds in what it has set out to do. There are over 1 million trustee roles in the UK for over 195,000 charities. 

They can include management committees of charitable societies and community groups, governors of charitable schools, and directors of charitable companies. Despite the huge diversity in terms of the size and objectives of their charities, they have the same basic duty—making sure their charity is doing what it was set out to do!

What do trustees really do?

Some of society’s most important social functions are performed and lead by charities. Trustees, essentially, are the people driving and directing those functions. They make important decisions, like deciding how and where to allocate charitable funds and resources allocated, what activities the charity should undertake, and how it fulfils its objectives. 

In practice, the job of a trustee is about making sound, well informed decisions in the best interests of the charity and deciding what will most effectively further its mission. 

The Charity Commission’s guidance “The Essential Trustee” sets out trustees’ key duties in more detail. 

Who can be a trustee?

Most people over the age of 18 are legally eligible to become trustees. There are some exceptions around disqualified individuals and there are extra requirements if the charity works with vulnerable individuals. A full list of eligibility criteria is available in The Essential Trustee (see section 3.1). 

Why consider trusteeship?

Trusteeship is a great way to enhance your professional development goals while making a difference to a cause that is meaningful to you. It allows individuals to develop new skills or apply existing skills to new real-life situations, meet new people and network—all whilst bringing a sense of fulfilment to yourself and those you are helping. 

Don’t forget—charities need you, too! It’s important that charity boards reflect the diverse range of people and issues they are championing and serving, so we encourage people from all walks of life to consider trusteeship. Everyone brings something different to the table and it is through combined skills, experiences and perspectives that charities are able to best fulfil the important work they do.

Encouraging your staff to volunteer as a trustee as part of their professional development plans also brings significant benefits for businesses. Allowing employees to spend time helping a charitable cause close to their heart will not only reap rewards in terms of staff motivation and loyalty, but will also help them develop new skills and perspectives that they can in turn bring back and apply to the work place. 

Where to start? 

More information on trusteeship can be found on http://trusteesweek.org/ or by emailing trusteesweek@charitycommission.gsi.gov.uk. Reach Volunteering, Career Volunteer, NCVO’s Step on Board programme, and Getting on Board also promote current trustee vacancies and more information on how to get involved in trusteeship.  

It might also be helpful to browse through the Charity Commission’s check charity tool, which has over 167,000 registered charities in England and Wales doing amazing work, or check out the Office of the Scottish Regulator or the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland for charities in these areas. This may help you decide what kind of charity you’d want to be involved with, which you can contact for more information!  

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