Whether you are a new charity appointing trustees for the first time, or you need to replace someone who has just left their position – refreshing your trustee board is a great opportunity to:
- Introduce new ways of reaching your beneficiaries
- Keep up with developments in technology
- Get new ideas or contacts to help you raise funds
The structure or composition of a trustee board is usually set out in a charity’s governing document, which might cover:
- Set limits on the maximum and minimum size of the board
- The process governing how trustees are appointed or elected
- Information about trustees with specific roles, such as Treasurer or Chair
- The length of service of trustees – known as the ‘term of office’ – which can sometimes differ between trustees and Honorary Officers
- Details of those who attend board meetings in an advisory capacity, such as individuals representing other organisations who attend as observers, staff members and professional advisors
These rules can vary between charities, depending on the size of the charity and its stated aims.
How many trustees should be on the board?
To put it simply, the trustee board should be the right size to govern the charity effectively.
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ size of trustee board. It should be large enough to make sure there are enough people with the right range of experience and skills to carry out the board’s work, but also small enough so that trustees can work together as a team with each contributing to the decision-making process.
As a guide, the Charity Governance Code suggests that a trustee board of at least five but no more than twelve trustees is generally considered good practice for a charity.
It is important to always check that your governing document’s rules regarding trustee numbers and length of service are appropriate, particularly if your charity grows or changes the way it works. If you are appointing your first board of trustees you should aim to stagger the lengths of service of the first appointments, so they overlap with new ones in the future rather than all changing at once.
Different models of trustee board structure
Governance models can be useful in helping trustees understand their responsibilities. Some models of governance focus on the composition of the trustee board, with the three traditional models being:
- Where trustees are appointed based on their status, influence, contacts or public standing
- Where trustees are appointed for their experience, specialist skills or knowledge
- Where trustees are appointed because they are representative of those with a stake or interest in the charity’s work
In the first model, the charity would benefit from influential people to help raise its profile and promote fundraising campaigns. With the second model, the charity would benefit from trustees who have experience and skills in relevant areas – e.g. marketing, accountancy, HR etc.- and in the third model the charity will gain valuable insights into the needs of its beneficiaries.
An effective trustee board would ideally incorporate elements of each the three models, drawing on individuals with a range of skills, experience, contacts and backgrounds.
About BHIB Charities Insurance
BHIB Charities Insurance specialise in providing tailored cover for community groups, clubs, societies, voluntary organisations and hobby or special interest groups. We offer more than just insurance and we are passionate about supporting local communities.
Any views or opinions expressed above are for guidance only and are expressed in generic terms. They are not intended as a substitute for readers taking appropriate professional advice relevant to individual circumstances. We would always encourage readers to seek professional advice.