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Responsibilities of a charity trustee

It’s an interesting question – what are the responsibilities of a charity trustee? It’s certainly one you should be asking if you’re thinking about taking up the role of trustee at a local charity.

Charity trustee definition 

The Charity Commission for England and Wales define a charity trustee as:

‘A person having the general control and management of the administration of a charity.’

A trustee’s role can, however, change based on the size and nature of the organisation. For example, in a smaller charity a trustee’s responsibilities may have more to do with the day-to-day running of the organisation than in a larger charity where there are more people to take this on.

Charity trustee responsibilities 

In terms of the standard duties of a charity trustee, there are a usually a range of opportunities depending on the needs of the charity. The duties and responsibilities of a charity trustee could range from:

  • Guiding the charity and using charitable funds and assets wisely.

  • Sharing skills, experience or knowledge with the board as part of a diverse team.

  • Managing its property, funds, assets and reputation.

  • Risk management assessments.   

  • Ensuring the charity operates legally and according to the latest regulation in the sector.

  • Making sure the charity takes care when investing or borrowing money.

  • And of course, ultimately, a trustee is responsible for making sure the charity delivers on its charitable objectives by taking positive risks and seizing opportunities.

All operations and decisions must also meet legal and regulatory requirements and therefore a trustee must well-versed in these. The Government provides detailed advice on the legal duties of a charity trustee.  

Trustee insurance

This all sounds pretty straightforward, but what if something goes wrong – what if the board of trustees doesn’t meet some or all of those duties and responsibilities? Charity trustees can be jointly liable for decisions made as a board, so it’s important to understand how a bad decision could affect you personally. 

It could even stem from employees or volunteers because as a charity trustee you are of course responsible for what they do – or don’t do.

Charity trustee insurance

In order to give charity trustees the confidence to make decisions, check whether the charity has trustees’ liability insurance in place.

Trustees’ liability insurance is a safety net designed to protect a trustee who makes an honest mistake. It can provide cover for trustee liability claims arising from a wrongful act made by a trustee and can include the cost of your legal defence – which can be significant.
Charity and community
Ecclesiastical Insurance Group plc (EIG) Reg No 1718196. Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc (EIO) Reg No 24869. Ecclesiastical Life Ltd (ELL) Reg No 243111. Ecclesiastical Financial Advisory Services Ltd (EFAS) Reg No 2046087. Ecclesiastical Underwriting Management Ltd (EUML) Reg No 2368571. E.I.O. Trustees Ltd Reg No 941199. EdenTree Investment Management Ltd (EIM) Reg No 2519319. All companies are registered in England at Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester GL1 1JZ. EIO and ELL are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 113848 (EIO) and 110318 (ELL). EFAS and EIM are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm Reference Number 126123 (EFAS) and 527473 (EIM). EUML is an appointed representative of EIO who is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 402228.