Trustees are the people in charge of a charity. They may be called trustees, directors, board members, governors or committee members, but they are the people with ultimate responsibility for directing the business of the charity. They are often the unsung heroes, playing a vital role, volunteering their time, working together to make the decisions that really matter about the charity's finances, activities and plans for the future.
There are lots of benefits in being a charity trustee
As we mark national trustees week (2nd to 8th November), I want to shine a spotlight on this essential part of a charity’s governance arrangements, in my first blog as the new Chief Executive at BVA.
With over 170,000 UK charitable organisations, from large big brand charities to small organisations employing just a few people, trusteeship is one of the most important roles in the voluntary and community sector.
In the past few years, we have seen a rise in the number of people from all walks of life, with diverse backgrounds and experience wanting to become trustees. This is hugely positive. However, before these people take the plunge, we advise them first of the many responsibilities that rest on the shoulders of a trustee. We are candid about the responsibilities and rewards involved, but also about the risks and the current funding challenges facing the sector, which is likely to impact their work.
Trustees are ultimately responsible for everything a charity does and can be held legally accountable for the decisions they make. That’s why we urge people to understand the risks and liabilities involved in trusteeship and to undertake due diligence and research into an organisation before they accept a role.
An estimated one in five UK charities has at least one vacant position on their trustee boards and notably, there is an absence of young people. According to a Charity Commission, young people are seriously under-represented on charity boards and less than 1% of under 25s are trustees. These figures need to change if we are to improve the robustness and effectiveness of charity boards, as the best boards tend to have a diverse mix of experience and age and reflect the makeup of society and their beneficiaries.
The last time we surveyed the local sector we found out that over 130 local organisations have a trustee board, and that trustees make a valuable contribution to the volunteering sector. In the borough alone we estimate over 12,000 people regularly volunteer and this gives an economic benefit to the local economy in the region of £21m.
There are lots of small charities working all around Basingstoke and Deane for diverse causes who really benefit from the time and skills volunteers could offer them as a trustee. But the benefits aren’t just for the charities themselves of course.
As a trustee you can:
- put your skills and experience to use and make a lasting difference to a cause you care about
- learn about the management and strategy side of charities by taking on a leadership role
- with generally four compulsory annual meetings, it’s the perfect volunteering opportunity for busy people
- work with new and interesting people from diverse background
- gain experience which will enhance your CV and may open doors to new career paths.
So in national trustees week, if you’ve never thought about supporting a local organisation before or are considering becoming a trustee, why not give our volunteer centre a call or Contact BVA for advice, guidance and support with governance of an organisation. We would very happily help you find something worthwhile to do in the borough.
Stephen Morgan, Chief Executive
You can follow Stephen on Twitter @BVAStephen