Appointing Trustees

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In the fourth of our blogs celebrating Trustees Week, Head of Charity Services, Jenny Simpson, looks at the governance processes charities should consider when appointing new Trustees.

We all know that Trustees are invaluable to the running of your charity. But how do you ensure the right person for your board and what governance processes do charities need to consider?

Before choosing new Trustees the Board should undertake a skills audit to identify any gaps in the collective knowledge and skills of the current trustees, which can be addressed via the recruitment process. This will inform the process and how the new Trustees are identified.

Having gone to the effort of finding the right person there are further steps to ensure good governance, which are sometimes overlooked. 

OSCR’s Guidance and Good Practice for Charity Trustees makes it clear that, while an individual is guilty of a criminal offence if they accept appointment as a charity trustee if they are disqualified from doing so, there is also a collective responsibility on all charity Trustees to make sure that none of them are disqualified.

I recommend that charities have robust procedures when appointing a new Trustee to ensure that this important aspect of good governance is complied with. This also means that new charity Trustees understand the charity, their role and responsibilities, and can make a meaningful contribution from the outset. 

Such procedures might include:

  • Asking new Trustees to sign a document confirming that they are not disqualified from acting as a charity Trustee;
  • Providing new Trustees with a document setting out their role and responsibilities and the charity’s expectations of Trustees such as attendance levels;
  • Requiring new Trustees to complete a ‘Fit & Proper Person’ declaration
  • Providing new Trustees with an Induction Pack of relevant documents such as the charity’s constitution, the Board’s Policies and procedures, the latest statutory and management accounts, and copies of minutes of recent Board meetings;
  • Inviting new Trustees to visit the charity’s premises, meet the employees and beneficiaries and witness first-hand the charity’s day to day activities.

Another problem area we encounter is in relation to communication of appointments to Companies House (for charitable companies only). Under the Companies Act 2006 the appointment of a new director (trustee) must be notified to the Registrar of Companies within 14 days. This timescale is frequently breached because new directors (trustees) fail to provide the personal identifier information required to notify Companies House of their appointment. For charitable companies we recommend that the new Trustee procedures are expanded to include provision of Companies House information before formal appointment.