Charity trustees and governance

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Overseeing the management and administration of a charity and ensuring that it is fulfilling its charitable objects can be complex and demanding, as the burden of regulation increases.

Trustees need to have a clear understanding of their duties and responsibilities and how to discharge those in their charity. Our experienced team can provide specialist advice and support for trustees on all aspects of governance.

What is a charity trustee?

A charity trustee is a volunteer who is responsible for overseeing the management and direction of a charitable organisation. They are legally and ethically accountable for ensuring that the charity operates in accordance with its objectives, complies with relevant laws and regulations, and acts in the best interests of its beneficiaries.

Gordon Reid

Gordon Reid

Partner | Charities, Independent schools

01483 464224

What is charity law and governance?

Charity law refers to the legal framework that governs the establishment, operation, and regulation of charitable organisations. Governance law, on the other hand, pertains to the rules and regulations that govern the management and decision-making processes of organisations, including charities.

What legal services do we offer?

Our areas of expertise include:

  • Trustees’ duties and responsibilities
  • Review and amendment of the charity’s governing document
  • Charity structures and incorporation
  • Advising on supplementary rules or schemes
  • Schemes of delegation – do your employees have delegated authority to perform their role?
  • Advice and training for new trustees
  • Charity and company law and procedure
  • Company secretarial services
  • Trustee recruitment
  • Regulatory restrictions and requirements
  • Risk management
  • Advice on trustee disputes

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What are the responsibilities of a charity trustee?

The Charity Commission summarises trustee duties under six headings:

Ensuring the charity is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit

This means that all trustees must have a good understanding of what the charity wants to achieve and how its activities are contributing towards this.

Complying with the charity’s governing document and the law

Seeking expert advice when needed is recommended and all trustees should familiarise themselves with the charity’s governing document and current charity law guidance in England and Wales.

Acting in the charity’s best interests

This means that all trustees must make decisions related to the charity that consider the short, medium and long-term impact. Trustees need to avoid conflict between their personal interests and their duty to the charity.

Managing the charity’s resources responsibly

Trustees must act responsibly, reasonably and honestly and exercise sound judgement in relation to the charity and its finances, assets, beneficiaries and reputation. This means they should not take undue risks, over-commit the charity and should take care when borrowing, investing or spending on behalf of the charity.

Acting with reasonable care and skill

This means that trustees should take individual responsibility to ensure they have the necessary skills and understanding to carry out their role and are able to give sufficient time, thought and energy to it. This includes seeking expert advice when necessary.

Ensuring accountability for the charity

This means complying with any relevant accounting and reporting that is required. Trustees should be able to show that the charity is compliant with the law, effective in what it does and is responsibly run.

Contact us

Contact the team at one of our offices in LondonSouthamptonRichmondLymingtonWoking or Guildford for expert advice on charity trustee responsibilities or if you require specialist advice about a specific situation.

We are here to help

Discover how our expert charity lawyers can help you.

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