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The Six Legal Responsibilities of a Trustee

To kick off this years Trustees’ Week we are recapping the six legal responsibilities of a trustee.  Trustees play a pivotal role in the functioning of charitable organisations. Being a charity trustee offers the opportunity to contribute to a cause you care about and can be very rewarding. However, becoming a trustee involves commitment and a level of responsibility which should not be underestimated. It is important that all trustees and anyone considering becoming a trustee is aware of the responsibilities.

There are six legal responsibilities of a trustee:

1. Ensure the charity is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit.
At the core of a charity trustee’s duties is the responsibility to act in the public best interest. Trustees should make sure they understand the charity’s purposes and be able to explain how all of the charity’s activities are intended to further or support its purposes.

2. Complying with the charity’s governing document
The governing document of the charity will set out the charity’s purposes and plans. The
trustees must follow the aims set within these documents to achieve the charity’s purpose. They should take reasonable steps to find out about legal requirements for example by reading relevant guidance and taking appropriate advice when needed.

3. Act in the charity’s best interest
Trustees should make balanced decisions with their co-trustees and should avoid putting themselves in a position where their duty to the charity conflicts with personal interests.

4. Manage the charity’s resources responsibly
Charity assets should only be used to support or carry out its purposes. Trustees should put appropriate procedures and safeguards in place to avoid exposing the charity’s assets to undue risk.

5. Act with reasonable care and skill
Trustees should give enough time and energy to their role for example by preparing for,
attending and actively participating in trustee meetings.

6. Ensure the charity is accountable
The board of trustees must comply with statutory accounting and reporting requirements
and should be able to demonstrate that the charity is complying with the law, is well run and effective. Often certain tasks are delegated to staff or volunteers, but the Trustees have overall responsibility for ensuring accountability.

Our experienced team can provide advice and support for trustees on all aspects of governance.

Please contact a member of our Charity team for more information.

Charities & Not for Profit

Jamielee Johnston