Trustee Duties

Charity Trustees are the people in overall control and management of a charity.  They may be called directors, management committee members or committee members, but the law considers them to be 'charity trustees'. They are responsible for the charity's governance and strategy, and  for making sure that the charity is administered effectively. They must account for its activities and outcomes.

Our Guidance for Charity Trustees sets out the duties and responsibilities of charity trustees. It also offers examples of good practice in the governance of charities, which should help charity trustees fulfil their duties and responsibilities.

Guidance for charity trustees
Guidance for charity trustees - in Easy Read
Guidance for charity trustees - in Bengali
Guidance for charity trustees - in Urdu

Who's in Charge? When it is unclear who is in charge of a charity, serious governance problems can develop and harm the charity's activities and reputation. Our guidance explains why it's crucial to be clear about who is in charge of a charity. It also sets out the principles in charity law that dictate the way in which the charity trustees must act.

In summary, Section 66 of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act ('The 2005 Act') sets out:

  • four general duties which are fundamental to charity trustees
  • a number of specific duties which charity trustees must observe.

A charity trustee must:

1. Act in the interest of the charity.  Trustees should put the interests of their charity before their own interests, or those of any other person or organisation.

2. Operate in a manner consistent with the charity's purposes.  Trustees should carry out their duties in accordance with their governing document.

3. Act with due care and diligence.  Trustees should take such care of their charity's affairs as is reasonable to expect of someone who is managing the affairs of another person.

4. Ensure that the charity complies with the provisions of the 2005 Act and other relevant legislation.

Our Checklist for Charity Trustees - protecting charitable status sets out some of the key areas charity trustees should keep in mind to ensure in particular that their charity continues to meet the requirements of the charity test.

Additional duties for charity trustees include:

1. Updating your charity's details.  Trustees must make sure that we hold the latest information about their charity on the Scottish Charity Register. Charities must seek our consent before taking certain actions. More information about when a charity must contact us for consent and when they must tell us after certain changes have been made is available on our Making changes to your charity page.

Note that charities are not required to notify us of changes to charity trustees. This is because the information is contained within the Trustees' Annual Report that each charity sends to us with its Annual Return form. If, however, a change of trustee means a change to the charity's principal contact, then the charity must notify us of the change a soon as possible. 

2. Reporting to OSCR.  Complying with the statutory duty to supply certain information to us:

3. Financial record keeping and reporting.  Section 44 of the 2005 Act states that charities must:

  • keep proper accounting records
  • prepare a statement of account, including a report on its activities, at the end of each financial year
  • have the statement of account independently examined or audited
  • send a copy of the accounts, along with the annual return, to us.

Accounting records must be kept by the charity for a minimum of 6 years from the end of the financial year in which they were made.

4. Fundraising.  Trustees are responsible for taking control of how their charity fundraises.

5. Providing information to the public.  Trustees must make sure that their charity meets legal requirements when referring to their charitable status, for example in advertisements, and in their duty to provide information about their charity to the public.

Charity trustees must act in the interests of the charity. Any personal benefit to a charity trustee, whether direct or indirect, has to be treated with caution. Read our Trustee Remuneration page for more information.

Sections 93 to 95 of the 2005 Act sets out the powers of investment of trustees and associated duties.

Trustees are entitled to make any kind of investment of the trust estate, including a wider power to acquire stocks and shares. However, these powers are subject to restrictions and exclusions and do not extend to certain categories of trustees. Further information about the restrictions and exclusions can be found in our guidance document.

All charities entered into the Scottish Charity Register have a duty to promote their charitable status, find out more by reading our Publicising Charitable Status page.

As Regulator, we have a duty to act where there is evidence that charity trustees are behaving improperly. Our response will be proportionate depending on the breach. Further information on how we will take action in cases of misconduct is available in our guidance document.