Let’s hear it for trustees
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.