Trustees play a vital role in ensuring charities and voluntary groups are well run, effective and working in the best way possible for the people they support.

If you sit on the board or committee of a charity with others who ultimately control and decide how the charity operates then in law, you are a trustee. You might be called a management committee member, board member, director or similar, but in law, you are a trustee. Your organisation may be a charity even if it does not have a charity number, because only charities with incomes of more than £5,000 a year have to register with the Charity Commission and so receive a charity number.

Trustees are usually volunteers and so are not paid but can claim reasonable expenses. It is possible for employees of the charity to be a trustee but there are various hoops to jump through to satisfy charity law. CAN and the Charity Commission do not recommend that employees are trustees.

Trustees across the BCP area benefit the local economy by around £25m a year – that’s pretty spectacular!

What are a trustee’s legal roles and responsibilities?

A trustee should:

  • Ensure the charity is well run, solvent and working towards its charitable purpose
  • Always act reasonably and prudently so that the charity always comes first in decision making
  • Use the knowledge you have (if specialist) and ask for expert advice if you do not know
  • Make sure the charity follows the law (not just charity law!)
  • Make sure the charity follows its constitution
  • Look after the charity assets (cash, equipment, property, reputation, etc.)
  • Act collectively
  • Avoid any conflicts of interest
  • Take ultimate responsibility.

The Charity Commission has lots more information about the role and responsibilities of trustees in its guidance The Essential Trustee and 5 minute reads.

Why be a trustee?

There are thousands of people that generously give their time for free as trustees across Dorset, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. They tell us they love the role and get a lot out of it. Even though it might look like a big responsibility, there’s a huge amount of support available, and you’ll have fun while giving back to your community. As a trustee you can:

  • Help to make a difference
  • Give something back
  • Learn, and develop, skills (eg strategic planning, financial management, employment etc)
  • Gain experience in a new sector
  • Use the skills you have
  • Develop new professional relationships
  • Allow a charity to benefit from your skills, expertise, enthusiasm and new ideas
  • Have fun!

Support for trustees

We offer advice and support through:

  • Training
  • Forums
  • Organisational health checks
  • Trustee board reviews
  • Information on this website.

More information

For more support or advice about the role of trustees, contact Steve Place at (if based in BCP) or (if based in Dorset). 

EMPOWERING the sector