Responsibilities of a charity trustee

16 October 2018

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 jar filled with coins

Charity trustee definition

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

The Charity Commission for England and Wales

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.