The key secrets to being a successful charity trustee

Written by Lauren Weymouth
04/01/18

Following the collapse of Kids Company, rules and regulations have tightened and the job of a charity trustee has become tougher than ever. But with over 167,000 charities working across the sector, the role of a competent trustee has never been more in demand.

Charity Times asked: What are the top secrets to being a successful charity trustee? Here’s how you answered:

Understand what is expected of you

Firstly, you need to understand what is expected of you in your role by reading the Charity Commission’s guidance, The Essential Trustee.

Get to know the charity

Make sure that at induction you receive a copy of the governing document so that you know what the charity’s objects are and the powers you have as a trustee.

- Barlow Robbins partner in the charites team, Gordon Reid

Starting with the right attitude

Starting with the right attitude, maintaining your independence and keeping abreast of developments are important. These, alongside an awareness of your duties and responsibilities coupled with a readiness to challenge constructively, what is not clear or ambiguous, goes a long way towards ensuring a trustee is an effective steward of their charities mission and purpose.

- Psigma Investment senior investment director, Andrew Wauchope

Take your responsibilities seriously

Keep in mind that trustees are legally responsible for their charity. Understand the trustee role in terms of setting and safeguarding the vision, values and reputation of the charity. And in terms of the strategy - monitor progress and evaluated results.

Apply your skills and ask questions

Doing a skills and experience review can help to ensure no talent goes untapped. New trustees should be encouraged to share their experiences and to consider how their approaches might be relevant to the running of the board or the way the charity works.

- Pilotlight chief executive, Gillian Murray

The charity's mission is paramount

Always make decisions with the charity’s mission statement front of mind – don’t be swayed by personal interests, loyalties or media. You will be held accountable for a charity’s actions and fiduciary duties, so always think to yourself: “Does this help us achieve our goal?”

Leverage your community

Community support and awareness is invaluable. Grow your network and get to know every relevant stakeholder – you never know what opportunities will open up. Local councils are a gold mine of information and can be instrumental in helping you reach out to the local area.

Never stop learning

As a trustee, you'll help your charity find the right way of dealing with the problems and opportunities that present themselves. Sometimes, those will be areas you’ve had little or no exposure to. Reading, talking to your network, sharing information, and regular training are all essential for you to ensure your charity’s success and compliance with its legal obligations.

- Greg Secker Foundation global operations officer, Peter Burnett

Remember that the annual report is yours

Trustees should remember that the annual report is theirs – there are so many claims that are not empirically substantiated and referenced in the Kids co annual report, e.g. £14m spent on volunteering time - with no explanation about how these and all the other claims made are supported. These should have been challenged.

- Cass CCE director, Professor Paul Palmer



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