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3. Do the charity trustees understand their responsibilities?

Published: 16/04/2024
Updated: 30/04/2024

Charity trustee duties are set out in the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 (the 2005 Act).

A duty is something that you must do. All charity trustees must work together to make sure that these duties are met.

The charity trustee duties under the 2005 Act set out a broad framework that all charity trustees must work within. There are general duties that help charities to be run properly and specific duties that are legal requirements all charities must meet. 

The general duties of a charity trustee

Every person who is going to be a charity trustee should read OSCR’s Guidance and good practice for Charity Trustees so they understand the requirements.

Broad principles that you should always take into account when running a charity:

Collective responsibility 

All the charity trustees are collectively responsible for the charity. No one individual charity trustee should have more power or control over the charity than the others. Charity trustees are not only responsible for their own actions; they are also responsible for the joint actions and decisions taken by the charity trustees.

Decision making

Making good decisions is an important part of running any charity. To make good decisions you should:

  • have the right information to make decisions
  • make decisions in line with rules set out in your governing document
  • record the decisions and
  • be able to justify your decisions if necessary. 

Don’t be afraid to think again about a decision if it doesn’t work out the way the charity trustees planned or if circumstances change. You should get professional advice if you need to.

Make sure you have the right skills, policies and procedures to look after the charity’s finances and assets. This includes anything the charity owns like property, investments, money in the bank. It also includes any money the charity may owe to anyone else (liabilities). 

Having the right skills includes making sure that all the charity trustees have access to and an understanding of the charity’s finances.  


A charity’s reputation is one of its assets and where that reputation is in question this can have a negative impact on how the public supports the charity and whether funding organisations will give the charity money. It can also impact on how the charity sector is viewed in general.  

Charity trustees have individual and collective responsibility for the charity’s reputation. It is important that you maintain the respect of your beneficiaries, the public and others, by behaving with honesty and integrity when acting as a charity trustee. If you don’t do this you risk bringing your charity and its work into disrepute.