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Becoming a Trustee

Posted on 8/12/2015 by Jo Hodge


At a time when more people working in banking and financial services have been hit by the post-recession 
cuts than most other industries, becoming a trustee can open up new job opportunities. 
If you are looking to move into the voluntary sector consider volunteering.

According to industry experts, there is an increasing trend from professionals who have lost their jobs in the private sector and want to now consider the charity or third sectors. One way of gaining experience and demonstrating commitment is by becoming a trustee of a charity. Trustee jobs maybe unpaid but will usually offer an in depth insight into the running of such an organisation and can in many instances improve future career opportunities

What does a charity trustee do?

Charity trustees are the people who form the governing body of a charity, responsible for controlling the management and administration of the organisation. Trustees should work together as a team, and have collective responsibility for their charity.

What experience do I need before I apply to become a trustee?

No actual experience is required to become a trustee but charities may look for specific knowledge and past experience. For example looking for someone who has experience in legal work or accountancy or an education charity may find it useful to have a former teacher become a trustee.

Do trustees get paid?

The role of trustee is generally unpaid, although expenses are covered, and trustees are not normally allowed to gain financial benefit, directly or indirectly, from the work of the charity. Trustees are volunteers and so aren't given any employment rights. It is important to note that a charity's employee can't usually become trustees of the same organisation.

As a trustee, what I am actually expected to do?

Being a trustee is an extremely responsible role. To put it bluntly 'the buck stops with you.' You will be asked to undertake a series of roles from taking legal responsibility for the organisation and ensuring it is solvent and well-run to making sure it operates within the rules and guidelines set out in the charity's governing documents and relevant legislation including charity, company and employment law.

What should I do to prepare to be a trustee of a specific charity?

Firstly, ensure you are motivated by the charity's aims and objectives. You should read all the charity's governance documents, speak to as many people about the charity itself; other trustees, staff, those receiving its services etc. Read its annual reports and all its financial reports, recent trustee and board meeting minutes. It is a very responsible role and if you are to do a proper job you must be well-informed. A good charity will have a formal trustee induction pack and programme which you should take advantage of.

How much time will I have to put aside?

To be fully engaged, and a valuable trustee, you should be prepared to put in at least a day per month made up of meetings, teleconferences, emails, reading etc. You will need to attend trustee meetings which can be once a month to quarterly. Before accepting a trustee role you should confirm the time commitment expected.