Trustees Responsibilities

What is trustee of charity role and what are main charity trustee duties?

Unit 3

About trustees

Trustees are people with control to lead the charity and are responsible to ensure the charity does what it was set up to do. Trustees use their experience to make sure the charity is run in best possible way to achieve it's objectives. Charity trustees are expected to take their responsibilities seriously ensuring that they give sufficient time and attention to the business of the charity. Their actions will influence people's lives on local level or on society as a whole, depending on what charity does. Most trustees don't get paid for their role but can claim reasonable expenses.

To be eligible to become a trustee you must:

  • Be more than 16 years old
  • Be properly appointed following the procedures in the charity’s governing document
  • Not be disqualified, for example being bankrupt or having an unspent conviction for certain offences
  • Be The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checked for Children's Charities

Main duties of a trustee:

Comply with the law

A trustee must ensure the charity complies with its governing document, charity law, and any other applicable law.

Act in best interest of your charity

A trustee must act in the charity's best interest both short and long term. Avoid personal conflicts of interest.

Manage resources responsibly

A trustee must act responsibly, honestly, reasonably and exercise sound judgement.

In particular, Managing Resources encompasses:

  • Managing Risks, establishing a risk policy and perhaps managing a risk register that identifies and assesses risks and how they may be mitigated.
  • Budgeting, to ensure the resources to deliver the purposes are available or can be appropriately sourced.
  • Managing the charities funds and having good bookkeeping processes that ensure expenditures and incomes are properly accounted for.
Ensure your charity is accountable

A trustee must ensure the charity complies with statutory accounting and reporting requirements as well as being run effectively and efficiently. Accountability does require that trustees are able to demonstrate compliance with the law and accounting requirements. Failure to submit accounts and accompanying documents to the regulator is an offence. The responsibility for annual report and accounts rests with all trustees not just the trustees whom sign the accounts.

Act with care and skill

A trustee must use reasonable care and skill in making decisions. Taking advice as appropriate and devoting sufficient time, thought and energy to the role.

Ensure your charity acts for the public benefit

A trustee must ensure the charity is carrying out the purposes for which it was started.

Additionally, trustees are expected to ensure that fundraising activities carried out by, or on behalf of, the charity complies with all relevant laws and does not put the charity or its reputation at unnecessary risk. The charity trustees must:

  • Comply with all relevant legal requirements
  • Make sure that all funds which are raised are properly accounted for
  • Only spend donations on the purposes for which they were raised

Serious incident

Trustees are responsible for reporting any serious incident to the relevant supervising regulator.

A serious incident is an adverse event, whether actual or alleged, which results in or risks significant:

  • Harm to the charity’s beneficiaries, staff, volunteers or others who come into contact with your charity through its work
  • Loss of the charity’s money or assets
  • Damage to the charity’s property
  • Harm to the charity’s work or reputation

Recruiting trustees

When a charity recruits new trustees, it should consider:

  • The skills and experience the current trustees offer and what gaps need to be filled
  • Eligibility to act as a trustee
  • Whether any significant conflicts of interest exist and how to manage them if appropriate
  • Induction and training available to help new trustees understand their responsibilities
  • That a new trustee can give sufficient time to the role

Much more information on this area is available from the web sites of the regulators.

Journal end flourish


August 2023
The importance of budgeting

Are you a small business or charity? Discover why you need a budget to thrive and make lasting change. Learn the essentials now!

Updated August 2023
Receipts & payments vs accrual accounting

Charities with a gross income below £250,000 and who are not registered as a company have the option of preparing receipts and payments accounts, as long as their governing document does not require their charity's annual accounts to be prepared as accruals accounts.

Updated August 2023
Simplify employee cost allocation

Employee cost allocation is the process of distributing staff costs across various aspects of a business. This helps in understanding how employees are used in different projects, allowing for accurate budgeting, enabling full costing for projects and better management control.