Deciding to open a charity is often driven by the desire to positively impact society. Central to the success of any charitable organisation are its trustees. Charity trustees are responsible for steering the charity toward its mission whilst fulfilling its legal, governance and financial obligations.
Charity trustees have a duty to uphold the charity's purpose and make decisions that shape the charity’s course. Charity trustees are responsible for ensuring the charity complies with relevant laws and regulations and that resources are managed responsibly and honestly. They must act in the charity’s best interests and ensure it operates according to its governing document.
Trustees are the stewards of the charitable mission, and understanding their role is fundamental to the success of any charitable endeavour.
How to establish trustees
Charity trustees can be referred to by different titles such as directors, board members, governors, or committee members. Regardless of the title, charity trustees are the individuals who have independent control over, and are legally responsible for, a charity’s management and administration.
How many trustees should a charity have?
The number of trustees on a charity's board can vary, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to how many trustees a charity should have. The ideal number largely depends on the charity's size, operational complexity, and specific needs. Smaller, grassroots organisations might find that a smaller board of trustees is more practical and efficient. In such cases, it is likely a tight-knit group of committed individuals can effectively oversee the charity's operations and decision-making processes. On the other hand, larger charities with a complex operational structure may benefit from a more extensive board, as it can bring a larger range of expertise and perspectives to the organisation.
Regardless of the charity’s size, it's generally advisable to have a diverse group of trustees with various skills and backgrounds to guide the charity effectively.
Who can be a trustee?
Charity trustees come from various backgrounds, united by a shared commitment to the charity's cause. To be eligible to become a trustee, certain criteria must be met:
Age requirement: You must be at least 16 years old to serve as a trustee for a charity that is a company or a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO). For other types of charities, the minimum age requirement is 18.
Appointment procedure: Trustees must be properly appointed in accordance with the policies and restrictions outlined in the charity's governing document (constitution, trust deed, articles of association, or other similar document).
Fit and proper person: For charities that intend to claim UK tax relief and exemptions, its trustees must meet the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) fit and proper persons test. This test ensures that charities aren’t controlled by individuals who present a risk to the charity’s tax position.
Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks: In cases where charities work with children or adults at risk, legal restrictions under safeguarding legislation come into play. The DBS conducts criminal records checks on individuals, a resource charities should use to verify a trustee's suitability for their role.
Disqualifications of trustees
Some disqualifications can prevent an individual from serving as a trustee. These disqualifications include:
Bankruptcy or IVA: Individuals who are declared bankrupt or have entered into an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) are disqualified from being charity trustees.
Criminal convictions: A charity trustee must not have an unspent conviction for certain offences, usually those involving dishonesty or deception.
Sex Offenders’ Register: Inclusion in the sex offenders' register disqualifies an individual from becoming a charity trustee.
Company Director disqualification: If an individual has been disqualified as a company director, they cannot serve as a charity trustee.
Prior removal as a trustee: Anyone previously removed as a charity trustee by the Charity Commission or a court due to misconduct or mismanagement is disqualified.
What are the responsibilities of a Trustee?
Trustees have a legal duty to ensure the charity operates in a way that upholds its purpose, complies with the law, and benefits the public. These responsibilities include:
Making decisions for the charity
Trustees are responsible for making informed decisions that guide the charity toward fulfilling its mission and purpose. This involves setting the organisation's strategic direction, evaluating potential projects or initiatives, and approving budgets. Effective decision-making entails considering both the immediate impact and the long-term consequences of each choice. Trustees leverage their skills and experiences to weigh up options to ensure the charity remains on track to achieve its goals.
Ensuring the charity is running smoothly and as it was meant to
Charity trustees play a pivotal role in safeguarding the strategic integrity of the organisation. While they are not directly responsible for the day-to-day charity administration and operational details like staff supervision and volunteer rosters, charity trustees focus on upholding the charity's overarching mission and principles. Trustees maintain a strategic oversight to ensure the charity remains true to its founding vision, objectives, and core values. Their involvement extends to making strategic decisions that align with these principles, ensuring that the charity operates cohesively and consistently with its intended purpose.
Meeting and exceeding the expectations of beneficiaries, donors, and the public is a critical responsibility of charity trustees. Trustees must ensure the charity delivers on its promises and consistently upholds the highest standards of accountability and transparency. By adhering to ethical practices, providing clear communication, and demonstrating tangible results, trustees cultivate trust among stakeholders and develop long-lasting relationships and continued support for the charity's mission.
Safeguarding people and their rights
The safety and well-being of beneficiaries, volunteers and staff are important issues for charity trustees. Charity trustees are expected to take proactive measures to implement policies and procedures that prevent harm and ensure staff and volunteers are adequately trained and supervised. Trustees should make sure there are methods in place for promptly addressing any issues or concerns that may arise. This includes establishing volunteer insurance and robust safeguards to protect individuals associated with the charity. By creating a secure environment, trustees demonstrate their commitment to protecting the rights and safety of all those involved with the charity.
Trustees oversee the reporting of essential information, ensuring that accurate records are maintained and reported as required by relevant regulations. This includes financial reporting, impact assessments, volunteer reporting and compliance documentation. By upholding rigorous reporting standards, trustees provide donors, beneficiaries, and regulatory bodies with the necessary information to evaluate the charity's performance and adherence to its mission.
Managing the charity's finances is a legal duty that charity trustees take very seriously. They are responsible for prudently overseeing the allocation and use of financial resources to ensure these resources are used solely to support the charity's mission. Trustees are responsible for making sure the charity avoids unnecessary financial risks and over-commitment by conducting due diligence when making financial investments or borrowing funds. Trustees safeguard the charity's financial stability and reputation by adhering to strict financial controls and complying with spending restrictions, ultimately maximising its impact in fulfilling its charitable objectives.
How to better manage volunteers
Effectively managing volunteers is a crucial element of successful charitable organisations, and doing so with ease is the goal of every dedicated charity leader. Volunteer management involves many tasks, from recruitment and onboarding to scheduling, communication, and tracking. Rosterfy, a global volunteer management platform with a comprehensive suite of tools and features, empowers charities to manage their volunteers with ease, streamlining the entire process for a more efficient and rewarding experience.
Rosterfy simplifies volunteer recruitment. Its user-friendly interface allows charities to automate the volunteer application process, making it easier for individuals to express their interest in volunteering. This helps expand the volunteer pool and ensure the right volunteers are matched with the right roles, increasing the likelihood of success for both the charity and the volunteers.
Rosterfy provides effective communication tools, enabling charities to effortlessly connect with volunteers through email, SMS, and smartphone notifications. Whether sending event updates, training materials, or shift reminders, Rosterfy ensures that volunteers are well-informed and engaged.
Rosterfy offers a centralised dashboard that provides a holistic view of volunteer activity, making monitoring attendance, performance, and engagement easy. This data-driven approach enables charities to identify trends, recognise top-performing volunteers, and make informed decisions to optimise their volunteer programs. By leveraging Rosterfy's reporting capabilities, charities can measure the impact of their volunteer initiatives and continually refine their strategies to achieve greater outcomes.
Volunteer management can be complex, but with Rosterfy, charities can easily manage their volunteers. By simplifying recruitment, enhancing communication, and offering effective tracking and analytics, Rosterfy provides a comprehensive solution that empowers charities to streamline their volunteer programs, ensuring a positive experience for both volunteers and organisations.
Rosterfy is used by non-profits, charities, sporting federations, and more to better manage their volunteer programs by improving how they can recruit, screen, train and retain volunteers.
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