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The trustees of a charity are charged with the extremely important responsibility of ensuring that the organisation is run for the benefit of those it supports. But, what is the role of trustees in a charity? Trustees are the ‘guardians of purpose’, ensuring that the charity’s overall strategy and key decisions are designed to put the charity beneficiaries’ needs first.

Our expert charity lawyers explain below three crucial points regarding the role of a charity trustee.


One – trustees do not run the day-to-day operations of the charity

A charity will generally have a board of trustees who meet four to eight times a year. The day-to-day running of the charity will be delegated to a CEO, who will appoint necessary employees.

Trustees often form and belong to sub-committees created to focus on specific areas, for example, fundraising. 


Two – trustees have several legal duties

The legal duties of a charity’s trustees are as follows:

  • a trustee must act in the charity’s best interests
  • the resources of the charity must be managed responsibly
  • a trustee must act with reasonable care and skill

Trustees who act in breach of their legal duties can be held responsible for consequences that flow from such a breach and for any loss the charity incurs as a result. 

The regulator for charities is the Charities Commission.


Three – trustees can have specific roles, such as the chair, secretary, and treasurer

Trustees who have specific roles, such as the chair, secretary, or treasurer are known as charity officers. 
This does not mean, however, that the other trustees are absolved of their legal duties in relation to the roles carried out by officers. For example, all trustees are jointly responsible for managing the resources of the charity responsibly.


Wrapping up

Deciding to become a trustee for a charity can lead to an incredibly rewarding experience. By understanding your legal duties as a trustee, you will not only protect yourself from personal liability but will also help ensure that your charity’s objectives are reached.

To find out more about the legal duties of a charity trustee, please contact us today.


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In closing

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