How will you celebrate Trustees’ Week?

Neal Green is Neal Greena senior policy advisor at the Charity Commission, with responsibility for charity governance, and the regulation of exempt and excepted charities. He recently completed the update of the Essential Trustee. Previous publications include It’s Your Decision, a guide to trustee decision making. He represents the Commission on the Governance Code Steering Group and helped to instigate Trustees Week.

Trustees’ Week 2015 starts at the NCVO/BWB Trustee Conference on 2 November. It’s an annual celebration of all the good that trustees do through their charities. It’s an opportunity to say thank you, attract new recruits, and think about trustee skills and training.

Building skills

Why not take time to stop and think what you personally, and your charity if you are already a trustee, have achieved in the last year? Then consider what you want to achieve in the next year.

People join charities because they want to make a difference. Are you making the difference you want to? Perhaps it’s time to refresh your skills and knowledge.

See details of a range of Trustees’ Week events and training

It’s a good idea to brush up on the basics of trusteeship, even if you have been a trustee for years. Have you read the new version of ‘The essential trustee: what you need to know, what you need to do’ yet? If not, it’s time you did. The publication explains the six main duties of trustees.

Trustee duties

The main trustee duties cover overseeing the delivery of your charity’s purposes, managing its resources responsibly, acting in your charity’s best interests and conducting its business with care and skill. They also include ensuring your charity is legally compliant and accountable. The publication sets out the legal requirements you must meet, and good practice that you can’t afford to ignore.

How well trustees understand and exercise their duties can be the difference between success and failure in your charity. Events this summer remind us what can happen when trustees don’t have sufficient oversight of a charity’s finances or fundraising, or when they rely too much on one person. Clearly there is more to fundraising than simply tasking someone with getting the money in; there are also ethical and reputational considerations for the board.

Assessing your situation

You might find it helpful to use the trustees’ six duties as a tool to assess how your charity is doing – identify what your trustees are good at doing and where there is room for improvement.

Consider the following questions:

  • How effective is your charity at carrying out its aims?
  • How effective is your charity at carrying out its activities?
  • Do all of your activities match your aims?
  • How well are your activities working?

The risk in not asking questions like these is that you might just do what you’ve always done whether it works or not. Or you might drift into activities that don’t match your purposes.

Trustees play a vital role in charities. It’s a challenging job to keep a charity on course. It’s about working as a team and making balanced, well-informed decisions. Sometimes it means asking awkward questions or dealing with conflicts of interest.

The Charity Commission wants to support trustees in doing a good job, which is why we have updated ‘The essential trustee’ to make it clearer and simpler. We’ve also included practical examples of common pitfalls to avoid.

Have a read, find out more, and make the most of Trustees’ Week.

Further support and information

To help you further understand your role as a trustee and ensure the effective governance of your organisation, we’re holding our Trustee Conference on 2 November 2015. With the latest legal and regulatory updates from Charity Commission included, you can remind yourself of your obligations as a trustee and get tools and advice to help in your role.

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