Trustees are the volunteers who lead charities and make decisions about how they’re run. They may be known as trustees, directors, board members, governors, committee members or something else.
Being a trustee is like being a non-executive director of a company. They make sure that a charity is well run, complies with all relevant laws, is in good financial shape and, importantly, delivers its charitable goals to the best of its ability.
One way trustees do this is by supporting and challenging the management team (where there is one) on strategy and key decisions.
Trustees work together as part of a board, which is collectively responsible for complying with various duties – such as making sure that a charity is carrying out its purposes for public benefit.
While a trustee board shouldn’t interfere inappropriately in the day-to-day operations of a charity, they may get more involved from time to time, particularly in small charities.
Who can become a trustee?
Anyone can become a trustee – regardless of whether you’re in paid employment or not, or in a junior or senior role. Applications are also open to people of all ages, ethnicities, sexualities, gender orientations, and classes.
At present, there are around 800,000 trustee positions in the UK. 48% of these are female and 66% are over 50 – though, it’s worth highlighting that young people can make great trustees and should be encouraged to join boards too.
While there are no specific skills and experience needed to become a trustee, an effective board will need to have a diverse array of skills, knowledge, qualities, and experiences to carry out their collective responsibilities.
These may include…
- ‘Hard’ skills, such as legal or financial knowledge, and an understanding of equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) principles and processes.
- ‘Soft’ skills, including teamwork and negotiation abilities.
- Knowledge of the community or services provided by the charity.
- Life experience related to the cause.