Let’s hear it for trustees

Herald Express - - Down Your Way -

MOST char­i­ties in the UK are still run en­tirely by vol­un­teers, and of course the gen­eros­ity of vol­un­teers giv­ing their time and tal­ents to our com­mu­ni­ties is a won­der­ful thing.

Recog­nis­ing the ef­forts of vol­un­teers and thank­ing them is im­por­tant, but there is one group of vol­un­teers that of­ten goes un­no­ticed and with­out be­ing thanked.

All reg­is­tered char­i­ties are re­quired to have a board of trustees – un­paid gov­er­nors legally re­spon­si­ble for the char­ity. They are in charge of the strate­gic di­rec­tion and le­gal com­pli­ance of our char­i­ties, which is a se­ri­ous com­mit­ment. And they do this with­out be­ing paid.

Novem­ber 12-16 is Trustees’ Week, which gives us a chance to stop and take stock of the con­tri­bu­tion trustees make. If you are in­volved with a char­ity, whether as a vol­un­teer, a ben­e­fi­ciary or a sup­porter, take the time to thank your trustees for their ef­forts and the re­spon­si­bil­ity they un­der­take.

Ac­cord­ing to the Trustees’ Week web­site there are over one mil­lion trustees in the UK. Just un­der half are women, and the av­er­age age of trustees is 59 in Eng­land and Wales.

In Tor­bay, we know anec­do­tally that there are roughly 150 trustees for around 700 char­i­ties. Ob­vi­ously that shows quite a few peo­ple are do­ing a great deal. We also know many char­i­ties and other or­gan­i­sa­tions strug­gle to find enough trustees and to find trustees with the req­ui­site skills, such as fi­nance and le­gal knowl­edge.

We would like to sup­port these or­gan­i­sa­tions by help­ing them to re­cruit more trustees and broad­en­ing the range of skills in the pool of trustees in Tor­bay. But to do this we need to en­cour­age a lot of new peo­ple to step up and be­come trustees.

All this talk of le­gal re­spon­si­bil­ity can sound very se­ri­ous, which of course it is. But be­com­ing a trustee shouldn’t be daunt­ing. For in­stance, one of the six key re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of be­ing a trustee is “Com­ply with your char­ity’s gov­ern­ing doc­u­ment and the law”.

There is a very help­ful doc­u­ment avail­able from the Char­ity Com­mis­sion out­lin­ing the six key re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and what they mean. Com­ply­ing with your char­ity’s gov­ern­ing doc­u­ment and the law means you do have to be fa­mil­iar with the gov­ern­ing doc­u­ment, keep up to date with your sub­mis­sions to the char­ity com­mis­sion and be aware of the laws that ap­ply to your char­ity.

It doesn’t mean you have to be an ex­pert, just make sure you take rea­son­able steps to be in­formed (which can in­clude seek­ing help and ad­vice when needed). And that re­ally sums up what be­ing a trustee is all about – mak­ing in­formed, sen­si­ble de­ci­sions in the best in­ter­ests of your char­ity, along­side your fel­low trustees.

It is a se­ri­ous com­mit­ment, and there’s no point pre­tend­ing oth­er­wise, but it can also be hugely re­ward­ing. Be­ing part of a larger team, work­ing to­gether to achieve great things for the ben­e­fit of the com­mu­nity. Any pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence you have is likely to be use­ful, but even life ex­pe­ri­ence, run­ning a house­hold or just pas­sion for a cause can make a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to a char­ity.

If you might be in­ter­ested in be­ing a trustee you can call us at the Tor­bay Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment Trust on 01803 212638 to find out more.

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