New guidance launched to help boards appoint lead trustees

The Chartered Governance Institute has published new guidance on the role of lead charity trustees.

The guidance has been designed to reaffirm the importance of collective responsibility and to highlight some of the key issues charities need to consider when recruiting a lead trustee. It also provides a specimen lead trustee role description to help charities with effective governance practice in this area.

According to the Chartered Governance Institute – formerly known as the ICSA – the charity sector has seen 'increasing calls' for individual trustees on boards to be appointed to lead on specific aspects of a charity's activities, such as safeguarding, staff welfare, digital or fundraising.

"Such practice already occurs successfully in other sectors and there is no reason why the practice cannot benefit the charity sector - providing trustees keep in mind the notion of collective responsibility and do not abdicate their legal duties by deferring unquestioningly to the board ‘expert’," the institute's head of policy (not for profit), Louise Thomson said.

“When considering introducing a lead trustee, the board should have regard to the intended outcomes for the charity; boardroom dynamics and the impact any lead trustee might have on board effectiveness; and how lead trustee(s) will inform and enhance board meetings and decision making.

"Assessing the ongoing benefits of having a lead trustee in place will also be critical if charities are to effectively ensure that the practice is benefiting them.”

Key considerations include:

• Benefits and drawbacks
• Time commitment, skills and experience
• Training and support
• Clarity about the purpose of the role
• Reporting arrangements
• Decision-making authority
• Performance reviews.

The guidance is available to download for free here.

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