Becoming a Trustee

I want to become a trustee

Individuals who serve on trustee boards are making some of the most important decisions in the world, in our country and in your local community.

Who is a trustee and what is a trustee board?

A trustee is a member of a group of people - the board of trustees, management committee or governing body - who have ultimate responsibility in a charitable voluntary and community organisation.

  • Trustees take overall legal responsibility for the charity's work
  • Trustees must act in the best interests of the charity
  • Trustees often delegate day to day tasks to staff and volunteers
  • Trustees are usually volunteers - trustees can only be paid in exceptional circumstances. However you should not be out of pocket financially for the work you do.
  • Trustees are not often permanent - some trustees have an unlimited term of office but many will need to stand for re-election or take a break at least every few years.

What are my responsibilities as a trustee?

  • Take the big decisions about the future
  • Ensure everything is legal and safe
  • Support the head of staff
  • Ensure the work of the charity is carried out
  • Ensure you as trustees are up to date and skilled to do your job

This means...

Working for others not yourself - Trustees have to act in the best interests of the charity - not any other interest. Your own personal interests, the views of a certain section of membership or staff or any outside interests should be left behind before you sit down at the meeting table.

Taking legal responsibility

You are ultimately responsible for what goes on, including financial responsibility and employment responsibility. Sounds scary? Don't worry! As long as you have made proper, informed decisions, followed the rules of your governing document and taken professional advice when you need to then you won't run into any serious trouble.

Giving time

trustee boards often meet quarterly or bi-monthly - You will need to be able to commit a small amount of time, probably no more than a few hours a month.

Working together

You have joint responsibility with the other trustees - trusteeship is about working together. No matter what happens, you will always have to try to get along with your fellow trustees: this means listening to other trustees and advisors, saying what you think and accepting the majority decision.

Keeping up to date on the facts

Doing your job properly will involve finding out about the organisation - its services, staffing, future plans, what might affect its services and future funding opportunities and risks.

Making sure you understand your role as trustee

Many organisations will have a trustee job description or code of conduct which will be available when you join up. NCVO have a range of information resources which can help you understand more about your role in the organisation

Who can be a trustee?

  • Over 18 years old (generally)
  • Not disqualified or bankrupted
  • Not convicted of dishonesty
  • Able to manage their own affairs

What skills and experience do I need?

  • Trustee boards need all kinds of skills to govern effectively. Any of these:
  • The 'hard' skills - legal, financial, management and so on - which are necessary to understand some of the complex decisions to be taken
  • The 'soft' skills - boards of trustees need people who can encourage teamworking, problem solving, asking difficult questions, decision making and, yes, make people laugh!
  • Different experiences and perspectives - charities increasingly need to be more responsive to the communities they serve. They should bring in diverse perspectives and backgrounds
  • Values - trustees have an important duty and all should be able to demonstrate basic values such as honesty and integrity

What are the benefits of being a trustee?

  • You are at the centre of the action, helping to decide things which matter
  • You can help support your community - ensure the services the charity provides meet the needs of the people they are serving
  • You can put your skills and experience to good use, to benefit your community or to provide better services for people who need them
  • You can learn new skills and new confidence in a whole range of areas - from finance to management to teamworking and decision-making - different from your previous experience

Before becoming a trustee, what should I know?

As a new trustee you need to know about the charity, how it operates and your role as trustee and what is expected of you. Many charities have an induction process for new trustees which will allow you to settle in and contribute effectively whilst recognising any support needs you may have. This may include an induction pack, an opportunity to meet the Chair, fellow trustees, staff, volunteers and site visits.

Individuals looking to become a Trustee

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What next?

Contact us and we will help you every step of the way!

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