Contributed by Wright Hassall Solicitors
There are many reasons why you might like to become a trustee of a charity: positive support for a good cause, putting a particular skill set or experience to good use, or remaining active in the community. Whatever your motivation, you need to be aware that being a trustee is a significant legal responsibility, shared with your fellow trustees, and you must understand your obligations before volunteering. The most important document you need as a trustee is the charity’s governing document which should contain all the information you need to understand how the charity is run and what it has been set up to do. For detailed information please see our full guide on charity trustees’ responsibilities.
The post of trustee is almost always voluntary (with reimbursement of reasonable expenses) and you need enough spare time to undertake your duties properly, not least as trustees are liable for the decisions they make. You can find a more detailed guide on the responsibilities and duties of charity trustees in Charity Commission’s ‘The Essential Trustee’ – VoluntaryNews update.
Getting to grips with the charity’s governing document
Every trustee must have a copy of the charity’s governing document which details what the charity has been set up to do, its legal structure, how it should operate and how its income should be distributed.
- You need to understand the charity’s objects (its charitable purposes) and that it passes the public benefit test. This means that its activities must be for the public’s benefit – or a sufficient section of the public.
- You need to make sure that suitable trustees are appointed, for instance you cannot appoint someone disqualified under the Charities Act. Consider whether or not an individual’s experience and skill set would be a valuable addition to the governing body.
- Make sure you understand which legislation your charity needs to comply with, such as employment legislation.
- Review the governing document regularly to make sure it accurately reflects what the charity does. If it needs updating, seek legal advice.
Acting responsibly, reasonably and honestly
- You must always act in the best interests of the charity and not those of the individuals involved.
- You must ensure that the charity’s resources are being used responsibly and that it is financially well-managed.
- You need to understand any risks that the charity might face and have a policy in place to evaluate and mitigate those risks.
- You must act in good faith and with ‘reasonable care’ which will depend, to an extent, on your skills and experience.
Exercise financial prudence
- You need to be sure that your charity is complying with the relevant accounting requirements and is able to produce the most recent set of accounts on request.
- You must understand that trustees can be held liable for any financial loss caused by them acting dishonestly or irresponsibly.
Being a trustee should be a rewarding experience. However, as trustees are ultimately responsible for the efficient management of the charity and its capability to deliver its objectives it is crucial that they understand exactly what that responsibility entails. The starting point for any trustee is to familiarise themselves with the governing document which sets out the charity’s legal structure, its objectives, who (or what) it is intended to help and how it meets the public benefit test. Beyond that, trustees must act in the best interests of the charity, applying common sense and good judgment.
I was looking for some information for charities and not for profits this morning when I came across the resources on your website.
I actually just published something called “Guide to advertising charitable status on all written materials” http://www.wrighthassall.co.uk/knowledge/legal-guides/2015/05/19/guide-advertising-charitable-status-all-written-ma/
It might make a good fit for your website. I’d be honoured if you’d consider adding a link to the guide.
Either way, great work!
We’ve been working on VolResource’s newsletter and news site VoluntaryNews for the last little while, so only a low level of additions here over the last few weeks. Plenty of web link updates though.
Centre for Effective Services Irish organisation which focuses on “implementation science”. Useful links page (at Jan. 2015) of organisations around the world promoting evidence-informed approach to policy and practice.
Fundraising Resources page further updates include:
Funding Eye consultancy offers a number of free resources “that are designed to help you navigate the world of fundraising”.
Aid and Development Resources
Development Impact and You – DIY Toolkit has practical tools to trigger & support social innovation. “A toolkit on how to invent, adopt or adapt ideas that can deliver better results. It’s quick to use, simple to apply, and designed to help busy people working in development.”
Community Groups Resources
Collective Action Toolkit is “a set of activities and methods to enable groups of people anywhere to organize, collaborate, and create solutions for problems impacting their community”.
Communities Channel Scotland (new summer 2014) “aims to provide support to local groups and organisations so that they can contribute to a socially and economically sustainable Scotland”. From Scottish Community Development Centre.
Neighbourhood Cinema from British Film Institute supports new and established community cinemas all over the UK.
Areas of Concern – Rural/Land Reform
Scottish Land Action Movement (Facebook link), new 2014 – a collective of activists striving for comprehensive and radical land reform in Scotland by 2016.
Some of the many revisions and additions to the website in the last couple of months, not including updates to links (where there was a distinct move to more “https” – secure – links).
The Fundraising Resources page has been restructured, with web platforms/crowdfunding/giving portals now integrated into the Online Income Services page.
Several pages have had general link reviews. As ever, further additions and amendments are welcome.
Added to Events Services page, online services section – believe.in has added ticketing and other event services to its fundraising platform. UK Fundraising news item gives an idea of what’s available.
A new Social Media section to the ‘Getting your message across’ page . Only a starter, so any suggestions for practical advice and ideas for inclusion – downloadable guides rather than short articles?
On Consultancy Services page, part of a new Pro Bono consultancy section: Pro Bono Economics “matches volunteer economists with charities wishing to address questions around measurement, results and impact”, http://www.probonoeconomics.com.
Under Health and Safety: ‘Charity and Voluntary Organisations – a health and safety guide’ from Health and Safety Works NI.
Just added to Policies and Procedures checklist, NCVYS has a ‘Policies for voluntary youth organisations factsheet’ available from its information sheets page, .
On Functional Support, Institutes and Associations Network of the Professional Publishers Association has been set up for those who publish a magazine on behalf of an institute, association or membership body, http://www.ppa.co.uk/ian/.
Plus plenty of general link updates – hopefully not many ‘internal links’ going to the old site now. More Charity Commission links to update, though, after the recent move to GOV.UK.
Yet another way to contribute information to VolResource is our Twitter account. Send us a tweet, and depending on the content, we can take it as a news item for Voluntarynews.org.uk, an update for a VolResource article. Or we could simply retweet it to @volresource followers (over a thousand, and growing).
The Twitter feed also now appears in the site footer, with a simple ‘tweet to @volresource’ box (you’ll need a Twitter account to use this, of course).