Regulator urges charities to support trustee development

The Charity Commission, is marking the fourth annual national Trustees’ Week (this week: 4-10 November) by urging charities to offer training and support to their trustees.

Survey research by the Charity Commission reveals that a third of charity register applicants claimed their organisation did not offer training and support to trustees.

By contrast, just under two thirds (63%) did offer this to some extent.

Trustees are the people with ultimate responsibility for directing the business of their charity.

As such, it is important they are provided with resources, support and training to help them run their charities effectively.

This has the dual benefit of improving the governance of their organisations, and providing the individual with skills and experience valuable to their professional development.

Trustees’ Week aims to increase awareness of these benefits, and over 40 events are already planned across the UK in support of the campaign, aimed at helping charities recruit or provide training on a wide variety of topics.

Trustees’ Week is a joint campaign between the Commission and a range of partners within the charitable sector and beyond.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of trusteeship and to encourage people from all backgrounds and ages to consider becoming trustees.

It also encourages charities to recruit more widely for trustees, and use a range of different methods to ensure a diverse board.

For more information, visit the Trustees’ Week website:

Sam Younger, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: "Trustees Week is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the vital work trustees do.

"As the backbone of their charities, it’s really important that trustees receive regular training to enable them to continually build on their knowledge and run their organisations effectively, and in accordance with charity law.

"Poor governance is sadly something we see regularly in charities, as a result of trustees failing to understand their duties; concerns about poor governance or poor trusteeship featured in 597 of our 1,374 assessment cases in 2011-12.

"Training could take the form of attending a Trustees’ Week seminar in your local area, or reading a piece of Commission guidance.

"I would encourage Chairs to regularly assess skills gaps in their boards and identify what their trustees need training on – from managing conflicts of interest to decision making, there’s a huge amount of support out there from both the Commission and the wider sector."

As part of the survey, the charity register applicants were asked to select a statement that most accurately summed up the role of the trustees in their organisation.

Just over half (51%) felt that the role of their trustees was primarily strategic.

Trustees’ responsibilities often fall above that of the individual’s day-to-day employment, offering the individual a chance to play a key role in the strategic decisions and management of a charity.

However, it is important that board members are provided with resources and support to help them carry out these responsibilities.

Respondents were asked, as far as they were aware, which source of support their trustees had used to help them fulfil their responsibilities.

44% selected the Charity Commission, with ‘another charity working in a similar field’ close behind at 41%.

Over a quarter of respondents (29%) said trustees had accessed legal expertise.

Alex Swallow, chief executive of the Small Charities Coalition, said: "Opportunities for training are extremely important for Trustees of small charities for three main reasons.

"Firstly, the smallest charities have few or no staff so if the Trustees don't have the right mix of skills the organisation is even more likely to suffer.

"Secondly, small charities are having to adapt to a fast changing environment where skills and understanding need to be continually 'topped up' for them to thrive.

"Thirdly, training and development opportunities are a key way to attract a diverse range of good people to small charity Boards: people want to improve their knowledge and to feel that they are in a position to be able to make a real contribution to the mission of the charity they support.

"Trustees' Week is a great opportunity to be able to champion the importance of training for Trustees."

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