The role of a Charity Trustee and roles of committe/steering group members


I have been a Trustee of two charities over the years, most recently I became a Trustee for Link-Upp (Birmingham). I got involved to be able to ‘give something back’ to the community, but as well as that I have had fun, met new people and gained new skills myself. It also looks really good on your CV! People often ask what is involved in being a trustee so I thought I would give you a brief over view of the role here and also introduce you briefly to the other roles that are involved in the running of a charity – those of the committee or steering group members, I have tried to keep it fairly brief so as not to overwhelm anyone! 🙂

Charity Trustees
The governing body of a charity is made up of a number of people who are the ‘trustees’ although they may not always be known by this name sometimes being called directors, board members, governors or committee members – although it is important to distinguish whether you are indeed a trustee or an ordinary volunteer so the use of other naming conventions can confuse people – if in doubt ‘ASK’! Usually unpaid Charity trustee volunteers oversee the running of a charity – to make sure it acts in accordance with its governing document (usually called its ‘constitution’) to achieve the outcomes it intends and that it complies with legal, financial and regulatory requirements. This may sound like a lot of work but that does not have to be the case, there are a lot of sources of help and support for trustees to achieve these objectives, one of the main being the Charity Commission. The responsibilities of a trustee are set out in more detail here but don’t let the volume of information there put you off!

As an example of how things can work briefly… in Link-Upp as Trustees we meet quarterly to review the activities of the steering group and see what events have been happening, check over the accounts to make sure the charity has enough money and is spending it appropriately and discuss if there is anything else we should be doing, if so we either act on these ourselves or where necessary pass the tasks down to the steering group who manage the day to day running of the charity. If anyone wants to ‘do more’ then there are options there for them to become more involved by becoming the Chair of Trustees (which is my current role), Treasurer, sitting on the steering group, fund-raising or (as I will be doing) becoming involved in administrative duties (for me this will involve implementing a quality management system tailored to improving the outputs of the charity and increase its access to funding opportunities). So now a few FAQ’s…

QWhat should I do if I want to become a charity trustee?
AFind out about the charity you are interested in and ask what they would expect from you.

QWho can be a Trustee?
AMost people over the age of 18 can become trustees (for unincorporated charities even under 18’s may be trustees) although disqualified directors, certain criminals and beneficiaries of the charity may be excluded from being trustees.

QWill I be liable if anything goes wrong?
ASo long as you and the other trustees are acting legally and responsibly you are unlikely to suffer any personal liabilities as a result of being a trustee. Some charities will insure against personal liability for trustees.

QWhere can I find out more about becoming a trustee?
AThe Charity Commission provides a range of information, you should also contact the charity you are interested in directly. You can also contact me if you wish and I will try to answer any questions you may have.

Committee/Steering Group Members

The Committee or Steering Group handles the day to day running and activities of a charity. Usually made up of a selection of volunteers, who are often from the membership of the charity, with various roles and responsibilities, the committee will meet regularly to organise events, fund-raising, deal with administrative and financial matters, keep records and whatever else is required to ensure the smooth running of the charity. If the group is large enough there may be a variety of roles available to suit your skills such as Chair, Secretary, Treasurer or Fundraiser. Tasks are usually shared amongst the committee so you can do as much or as little as you have the time available to do.

Main Roles

Chair

  • Ensure the smooth running of the charity
  • Organise and run meetings so they are timely and effective and everyone gets heard.
  • Ensure decisions are reached

Secretary

  • keeping people informed
  • taking minutes of meetings

Treasurer

  • Keeping the financial records for the charity

If you want to know more about the roles and responsibilities of committee/steering group members the Resource Centre has some helpful fact sheets. Or again you can contact the charity I wish to volunteer for directly to find out how they can use your skills.

I hope this has been a useful introduction without going too deep! 🙂

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One comment on “The role of a Charity Trustee and roles of committe/steering group members

  1. Pingback: Just a Quickie…Charity Work – giving something back! :) « Day in the life of a Busy Gal…

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