The elephant in the Boardroom

4 minutes
Lisa Ross

By Lisa Ross

This is the ‘elephant in the Boardroom!'

It’s a question Trustees don’t like to ask in case it comes over negatively - but it’s one people would like to know: "How do I resign as a Trustee?"

Generally, most Board tenures are 3 to 4 years with an option for one further term thereafter.

We hear a variety of reasons why someone wants to leave a Board before their official time; their circumstances have changed, it’s not possible to commit the time anymore, perhaps they feel they’re not adding as much value as they did, they feel it would be more beneficial for the charity to get fresh perspectives or sadly it could be an illness, a personality clash or you simply don’t agree with decisions being made.

Remember it’s OK if you don’t want to do it anymore. At the end of the day, it’s not conducive for an effective board to have a Trustee who’s reluctant to be there.

A good reference source for any guidance is GOV.UK. The official line:

The Trustee will need to put their resignation in writing.*

Your charity’s governing document may include a set number of years Trustees can serve for. A Trustee who has reached the end of their set term can be re-appointed for another term unless your governing document says otherwise. If your governing document doesn’t specify a length of service, Trustees continue in their role until they die, resign, or are removed."

Generally, Trustees are able to resign before the end of their set term.

Your charity’s governing document might also include certain rules you will need to follow if a Trustee wants to resign.

*If you would like support with what to include in a resignation letter, please make contact we can help you, but top line is it needs to be formal and succinct.

At TPP, we advise charities to give clear guidance as part of their on-boarding documentation process. It’s important a new Trustee has seen the governing statement and is fully up to speed with terms and expectations. If you haven’t seen it, do ask to see it.

The best advice we can give though is communicate, communicate, communicate.

Please do not be afraid to let the Chair or other Board members know. It’s far better to give plenty of notice so the Nominations Committee has more time to plan recruitment properly and not rush it. The Board can then discuss what skills they need as a replacement (it could be they have a new strategy, so someone with a different skillset could be useful/timely). They could also use your input as part of the recruitment campaign. Look to the future: Skills Audit

As with a permanent role, it’s helpful for any company to conduct an exit interview; it’s also helpful to do so for a Board. Think of it in the same way - if you’re leaving because of specific reasons, then give constructive feedback to the Chair. It may be too late for the charity to make changes that enable you to stay, but it will make the Chair aware so they can make changes for the future.

The most important thing is you leave on good terms; you feel proud of your contribution, look back and appreciate how much you’ve grown both professionally and emotionally, and the charity has great people on the Board to support them moving forward. Being a Trustee

Perhaps you could also take what you’ve learned and join another charity as a Trustee - we have lots of Trustee opportunities at TPP with numerous charities and would always love to hear from you!

If you want to discuss any of the above or need further guidance, please don’t hesitate to contact Lisa, Emma, or Matt on 0207 198 6060 or email

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