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So you want to be a Trustee?

View profile for Craig Staten-Spencer
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Many people like the idea of being a charity trustee, and indeed there are many vacancies for trustees across the UK.  But what is a trustee, what are their responsibilities, and how do you start the process of becoming one?


What is a charity trustee and what are their responsibilities?
A Trustee is an individual who is legally responsible for the charity and makes decisions on its day to day running and strategic direction.


What does a trustee do?
The role of a Trustee often depends on the size of the Charity for which they are responsible.  For small charities, they may be involved a lot more in the day to day running of the charity, whereas for some of the larger charities, they will often take a more strategic and managerial role.


Are trustees paid?
This is largely a question of the size of the Charity.  Some large charities can afford to pay their trustees, and these will often be at high level strategic positions, but for many, trustees take on voluntary roles.  In any case, there are very strict rules around the payment of trustees, and only a minority of the charity trustees should be paid.


What are the legal responsibilities of trustees?
Regardless of the size of the charity, all trustees are legally responsible for a number of duties.  These include:

  • Acting in the best interests of the charity
  • Managing the Charities resources in a responsible manner
  • Ensuring the charity if carrying out its purpose
  • Ensuring the charity complies with the rules set out in its governing document(s) and the laws relating to charities.
  • Making sure the charity is accountable.
  • Acting with reasonable care and skill


Who can become a trustee?
There are several requirements that need to be met before an individual can become a trustee:

You must be at least 16 years old if the charity is a company or charitable incorporated organisation (CIO), or 18 years old for any other type of charity.

You must not be disqualified from being able to act as a trustee.  Reasons for disqualification include:


  • Being bankrupt or having an individual voluntary agreement (IVA)
  • Being on the sex offenders register
  • Having certain unspent convictions – generally these relate to fraud dishonesty and deception.


How do you become a charity trustee?
The process for becoming a charity trustee will vary depending on the charity.  It will be set out in their official documents.  Depending on the size of the charity the process may be more or less formal.


How do I become a Trustee?
There are many resources available for those who want to find out more about being a trustee.  Sometimes the charity will advertise positions on their website, others will recruit via local volunteer centres.  If there is a particular charity you are interested in becoming a trustee of, a good way to get to know the charity is to volunteer for them first, so that you can really understand the work they do and their objectives.