Trustee Club

Who is it for?

“Charity trustees” is the formal term to describe the people who share the ultimate responsibility for governing a charity, directing how it is managed, ensuring it is run effectively, providing due diligence and financial oversight and making sure it is doing what it was set up to do.

Informally they may be called trustees, the board, the management committee, governors, directors or something else, but whatever they are called, trustees are the people who lead the charity and decide how it is run.

Being a trustee means using their skills and experience to making decisions and direct the charity with the aim of achieving the charity’s aims, which is ultimately to improve lives. 

It should not be forgotten that the motivation and decision to become a trustee is entirely voluntary.  Most trustees don’t get paid, other than being able to claim reasonable out of pocket expenses.   

What are the issues?

In Dorset, from the work DCA undertakes to support local charities and not for profit / voluntary groups, we regularly hear about how difficult it is to recruit trustees.  We recognise the growing demands and pressure on trustee boards as a result of:

  • legislative changes,
  • reporting demands,
  • competition for and cuts to funding
  • and the changing socio-economic and political environment.

So, we know it’s not just a question of recruiting trustees, but recruiting the right trustees with the skills, experience and knowledge to effectively lead their organisations and support their sustainability. What is being experienced in Dorset is no different to the National picture.  “Taken on Trust” published in November 2017, a partnership report on Trustees awareness of the legal responsibilities and duties and their own assessment of competencies recommended: 

  • Providing appropriate and timely advice and guidance
  • The development and implementation of a trustee web portal offering a focal point for information, advice, skills delivery & signposting
  • A more differentiated and granular approach to be taken to the provision of advice & support recognising the huge diversity in scope and nature of its activities and consequent needs of its trustees

There were also recommendations around the recruitment of trustees, including: more work be done to encourage trustee boards to actively embrace the introduction of different people, new ideas, skills and experience to trustee boards, and to target the recruitment of trustees from more diverse sections of society. And also that Voluntary Sector Umbrella bodies, supported by the government and the Charity Commission should establish a campaign to:

  • promote the value that charity trusteeship brings to public life, to beneficiaries and to trustees themselves
  • raise awareness of the benefits associated with trusteeship
  • promote greater diversity within charity trustee boards

DCA supports new and existing trustees through regular training courses on recruitment (in partnership with the volunteer centre), on roles and responsibilities, policies and procedures and risk management. We also work with individual trustee boards supporting board appraisals and annuals reviews, skills audits, facilitating strategy away days, business planning and funding strategy development in addition to the training identified above. But the problems aren’t going away and we want to do more… hence the development of a “Trustee Club”.  The establishment of the “Trustee Club” will address many of the recommendations in the “Taken on Trust” report for Dorset.

How will the Club help?

The aim of the club is to bring Trustees together, pool resources and knowledge, share solutions and tackle issues as suggested by the Club members and by bringing in experts as needed. We’re very pleased to have the support of Jen Richardson, a specialist in charity accounting from Ward Goodman.  

Our ultimate aim is to support charities needing access to a continuing pool of existing and potential trustees if they are to be governed efficiently and effectively and they must be equally assured that new and continuing trustees are aware of their responsibilities during periods of service. If this is not achieved trustee boards might lack the diversity of the beneficiary groups they seek to serve and lack the confidence and competence to make the correct decisions for themselves and for the organisations that they govern.

If you would like any more information on the Trustee Club and upcoming meetings please contact anita.hansen@dorsetcommunityaction.org.uk or call 01202 847606.