The impact of missed trustee meetings

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Through our work with our charity clients one recurring issue that we see relates to the levels of attendance by Trustees at meetings. Of greatest concern is where we see that meetings are cancelled at short notice because insufficient Trustees are able attend to achieve a quorum. This can have serious implications for the running of the charity and can tie the hands of the charity’s management who are unable to get Board approval for planned actions and activities. Thankfully cancelling meetings is relatively rare, but far more commonly we see individual Trustees with very poor attendance at meetings. This is not necessarily an issue for the charity but can pose particular risks for the absent Trustee. 

Trustees have onerous responsibilities, with potential personal liability in extreme circumstances, and it can be difficult to demonstrate adequate discharge of those responsibilities if you are not present at meetings. There is no ‘not my fault -I wasn’t there’ defence. 

We would encourage all Trustees to attend as many meetings as possible, and where attendance is not possible, ensure that you have thoroughly read and considered the papers, in advance of the meeting, and submit comments and questions through the Chair. The input from the absent Trustee should be carefully minuted. 

Charities may wish to implement a policy setting out expected attendance levels and a policy for removal of Trustees with unacceptable attendance. They may also wish to monitor attendance levels and report these to the Board on an annual basis.

Find out more information on Trustee meetings in OSCR's Guidance and Good Practice for Charity Trustees.