How to become a trustee

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Become a trustee

Charity trustees play an important role within the organisation, making sure the charity is managed and run in the best interests of the people it helps and supports.

If you are interested in becoming a trustee, or want to learn more, read our guide below.

What is a trustee?

The definition of a trustee is: “an individual person or member of a board given control or powers of administration of property in trust with a legal obligation to administer it solely for the purposes specified.”

When it comes to charities and voluntary organisations, trustees oversee everything a charity does, from setting its strategy to ensuring its work and goals are in line with its vision.

Trustees also safeguard the charity’s assets – physical assets such as property and also intangible assets such as the charity’s reputation. They are ultimately responsible for making sure the charity’s assets are used well and that the charity is run sustainably.

Being a trustee is an extremely rewarding way to make a difference and can help you develop new skills and experience while contributing your knowledge, ideas and expertise.

What does a trustee do?

Trustees don’t normally get involved in the day-to-day running of a charity, that is delegated to the staff and led by the Chief Executive. Instead, a trustee’s role is to act as a ‘critical friend’ to the Chief Executive by offering support to help them manage effectively. In smaller charities with fewer staff members, trustees may also take on a more hands-on role.

Some trustee roles require professional expertise, such as finance and accounting, IT or marketing, and so their contribution to the charity will be in the form of the expert advice they can provide. However, you don’t necessarily need to be a specialist in a certain field to be valuable. Providing a new perspective, drive and commitment are often the most important things a trustee can bring to a charity.

Who can be a trustee?

Anyone aged 16 or over is eligible to be a trustee in the UK, providing they meet the following criteria:

You are not disqualified under the Charities Act, reasons for disqualification include if you:

  • are disqualified from being a company director
  • have an unspent conviction for an offence involving dishonesty or deception (such as fraud)
  • are an undischarged bankrupt (or subject to sequestration in Scotland), or have a current composition or arrangement including an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) with your creditors
  • have been removed as a trustee of any charity by the Commission (or the court) because of misconduct or mismanagement
  • are on the sex offenders’ register

You pass the ‘fit and proper persons’ test

All UK charities that want to claim tax relief and exemptions such as Gift Aid are required to meet the management conditions as set out in the Finance Act 2010. This requires all of the charity’s managers – which includes trustees – to be ‘fit and proper persons’.

The ‘fit and proper persons’ test is concerned with ensuring that charities are not managed, controlled or influenced by individuals who may present a risk to the charity’s tax position.

Find out more about the ‘fit and proper persons’ test:

You pass a DBS check

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are used by organisations to make sure you do not have a criminal record. There are legal restrictions under safeguarding legislation regarding who can work with children and vulnerable adults, so DBS checks are used by charities to ensure you are eligible and suitable for the role of trustee.

The type of check that may be made will depend on the particular charity, the services they provide and the role the trustee plays at the charity.

How to find charity trustee roles

There are many different ways you can find vacancies for trustee roles.

If you are already involved with a charity in some way, you can approach them directly and ask if they have any vacancies. Even if you have no prior relationship with a charity you can still approach them via phone, email or in person.

You can also:

  • Look for adverts in the local press – many charities advertise trustee vacancies here
  • Ask at your local volunteers centre (Use NCVO’s Volunteer Centre Finder to find volunteer centres near you)

There are also many online resources to help you find current charity trustee vacancies, for example:

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.

To find out how we can help your charity or not-for-profit organisation, email us on or call 0330 013 0036 to speak to our friendly, expert team.

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