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The function of the trustee

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This material has actually been provided by an industrial partner.

Several years back, I composed a reality sheet for my company on whether the trustee function was that of a poisoned chalice. It is not a function to be handled gently, however it is an extremely satisfying function and of terrific worth to the sector. A trustee’s crucial function is to deal with other trustees to set the charity’s technique, make sure the charity runs efficiently, and follows good practice. As a body, trustees are custodians of the charity’s possessions for the time that they’re in workplace. That sounds easy, however as typical the devil remains in the information. Let’s return to essentials and take a look at it from a private viewpoint which of the charity.

Individual

Why do individuals wish to end up being trustees? It might be simply a selfless choice to provide something back to the neighborhood. It might develop from a personal experience with the charity or something associated that results in you wishing to be included. It might be merely that somebody asked you. Whatever your path in, you require to do your own due diligence.

Consider whether you have enough time to do the function. The primary time will be presence at trustees’ conferences, checking out files supplied prior to these conferences, a possible yearly technique day and, if selected to a committee, time to satisfy that function also. The actual time needed to carry out the role will be different in every case so it is worth asking the charity for further clarity as your application progresses.

Remember that trustees are generally not allowed to be paid. Expenses can be reimbursed but, in most circumstances, no remuneration can be paid to trustees without Charity Commission approval.

Having decided to get involved with the charity sector, you should consider what type of charity you wish to get involved with (unless you’ve already been approached directly). I think it is important to be involved in an organisation that you have an affinity with. If you are not an animal lover, an animal charity is probably not appropriate. Once you have selected a charity, do your research: review the website, its Charity Commission entry and its Companies House listing (if appropriate); review the latest accounts; Google the charity and look on social media. Prepare a CV for forwarding to the charity. This is not about qualifications but work and life experiences. Contact the charity to discuss the opportunity to be a trustee.

It is important to talk to other trustees and the CEO to get a further understanding of what the charity does and what is required of you. If possible, a visit to the premises is highly recommended. Many charities will invite prospective trustees to a trustees’ meeting so that they can see how things work first-hand.

Charity

When considering appointing a new trustee, it is important to assess the skills you already have on the board; what expertise are you missing or which areas need strengthening? Finances are important, so the luxury of having two financial trustees is a great asset. If you are looking to do a property development, someone who is experienced in this field would be useful. Having identified the role, you need to start your search. This is not an easy task.

Traditional ways are by using personal networks or advertising. Social media is a great way of contacting a wider audience. Vacancies should be shown on your website and you could consider writing an article for a local newspaper, explaining the great work your charity is doing. The article can include a request for new trustees.

Be careful to ask for the right qualities. It’s not about having a degree. Rather, it is about work and life skills. Don’t put off half of your potential pool of applicants by putting an obstacle in place at the start.

Having identified someone (hopefully), arrange to meet them. Understand what they can add and how they can help to move the charity forward. Suitable candidates should be given more information about the charity, then invited to a trustee meeting as an observer; but do allow them to contribute. They may be able to provide some valuable fresh insight. It may be worth asking a beneficiary of your charity to meet the prospective trustee. The information shared between these two parties can provide useful perspective to each of them.

Once an appointment has been made, ensure there is a proper induction process in place. This includes providing them with 12 to 18 months of meeting minutes, a copy of the trust deed or constitution, the most recently prepared financial statements, and latest management accounts. Furnish them with details of all the services the charity provides and introduce them to the senior management team. Well-informed trustees will carry out their function more effectively. Ask them to read the Charity Commission’s CC3 – The Essential Trustee: What You Need To Know, What You Need To Do, and its seven five-minute guides for charity trustees. Finally, introduce them to the Charity Governance Code.

Conclusion

It is crucial that both the charity and the potential trustee do their research. It is an important role, which contributes not only to the direction of the charity but also its culture and the impact it has on its beneficiaries and society in general. It is not a role without its challenges but is rewarding and one that helps beneficiaries to have a more fulfilling life. It is not a poisoned chalice if approached sensibly and with commitment.

Susan Robinson is a partner at Kreston Reeves

Charity Finance wishes to thank Kreston Reeves for its support with this article

The Charity Finance Yearbook is the ultimate reference source for charity finance professionals. Produced by the Charity Finance editorial and research team it includes updates, advice and trends on accounting and audit, VAT and taxation, investment technique, responsible investment and financing, threat, financing, efficiency and governance, law and guideline, HR and pensions, IT and property. Purchase online here.
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