By Andrew Holt

The Charity Commission has today published a draft version of online guidance to help trustees gain confidence in their decision making and judgement.

It’s your decision – guidance on decision making for charity trustees sets out the principles that should guide trustees when considering important decisionsfor their charity and assessing risks associated with their decisions.

This is the first time the Commission has drawn up a guide aimed at supporting trustees in all of their important decision making,and the regulator is calling on trustees to share their thoughts on content, style and approach.

The guidance stresses that the Commission does not run or direct charities and that it is for trustees to determine what is in a charity’s best interest.

The Commission does not monitor trustees’ decisions and trustees in turn should not need to check with the Commission whether any decision they have made is ‘correct’.

However, in charity law, trusteesmustfollow certain principles in making decisions, including ensuring they:

• Act within their powers
• Act in good faith and only in the interests of the charity
• Adequately inform themselves
• Take into account all relevant factors
• Disregard any irrelevant factors
• Manage conflicts of interest
• Make decisions that are within the range of decisions that a reasonable trustee body would make

The guidance also suggests what trustees should do if they cannot agree, explains when trustees need to ask the Commission for advice and under what circumstances the Commission might get involved.

Jane Hobson, head of policy at the Commission, said: “This is the first time we have produced guidance that focuses specifically on trustee decision making. We are therefore keen to make sure this new tool is of practical use for trustees – and helps them understand how to use their discretion in running their charity.

"It’s important for trustees to feel reassured that, so long as they followcertain key principles, they are unlikely to be challenged by us as regulator – even if their decisions meet with criticism. I would like to encourage trustees and their advisers to read the draft guidance and share their views and any suggestions with us."

The publication comes as part of the Commission’s commitment to developing the self-reliance of charities, and follows other recently published tools, such as the Trustee handbookand the Partners directory– an online list of umbrella organisations able to offer charities tailored advice.

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