Charity Trustee Duties - General Duties

Published: 20/02/2017
Updated: 20/02/2017

Summary

 

What the law says: 

1. You must act in the interests of the charity 

What this means:

  • You must do what is best for your charity and beneficiaries, not what is best for you, your friends, family or business interests.
  • You must put the needs of your charity before the needs of any other organisation or company that you are involved with. 

How you can achieve this:

  • Your charity has a list of where charity trustees work and any other organisations they are involved with. This list is kept up to date and will help to identify any potential conflicts of interest.
  • Your charity has a “code of conduct” that says what charity trustees should do if there is a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest is when a charity trustee might not be able to do what is best for the charity because he or she has a duty to another organisation or person. 
  • Your charity has a policy that says what will happen if a charity trustee does not act in the interests of the charity.
  • Your charity has a policy that makes it clear when it is ok to pay charity trustees, their family or the organisation they work for. You should read our full guidance first if you intend to do this and check if your governing document allows it. There are specific rules about paying charity trustees and people connected to them. Charity trustees can get expenses, like train fares to get to a charity trustee meeting; this isn’t considered a ‘payment’. 

More information:

  

What the law says: 

1.1 You must operate in a manner consistent with the charity’s purpose 

What this means: 

  • Every charity has a “governing document”. This contains the rules that say what the charity does and how it is run. 
  • You must make sure that the other charity trustees and the people working for the charity follow the rules in the governing document.  
  • You must make sure that the charity's money and property are only used to do the things that are allowed by the governing document. 
  • You must make sure that the charity’s activities advance its charitable purposes. 

How you can achieve this: 

  • Charity trustees get an information pack about the charity when they start, including a copy of the charity’s governing document. 
  • Charity trustees plan what the charity will do and make sure the plan fits in with the charity’s governing document. 
  • Charity trustees regularly review the governing document to make sure it is still up to date and relevant. 

More information:

 

 

What the law says: 

1.2 You must act with care and diligence 

What this means: 

  • You must run the charity carefully and must all work together for the good of the charity. 
  • You must make sure that the charity complies with any relevant laws, for example health and safety or data protection. 
  • You must make sure that the charity has enough money to pay staff and other costs. 
  • You must make sure that any staff the charity has are treated properly and fairly. 
  • You must make sure that the charity’s name, number and logo are not used without permission. 

How you can achieve this: 

  • Charity trustees review the charity’s plans regularly to make sure that they are up to date.
  • Charity Trustees work together to protect the charity including its beneficiaries, assets and reputation. This means assessing potential risks to help good decision making.
  • Charity trustees must keep accounting records that include the money the charity spends and the money that comes into the charity.
  • Charity trustees agree what will happen if a charity trustee misses too many meetings. 
  • Every year, charity trustees review:

    • what the charity has done well
    • what it could do better 
    • the charity's governing document to see if it needs to be changed.

  • Charity trustees make sure there are rules in place to deal with any grievances raised by the charity’s staff and/or volunteers. For example, an internal complaints procedure.
  • Charity trustees are clear how to make a decision when they don’t all agree with each other.
  • Charity trustees have access to training if they need it.
  • Charity trustees make sure that volunteers are treated properly and fairly.
  • Charity trustees get legal or financial (money) advice from experts if they need to.
  • Charity trustees must comply with all relevant laws and have a good system to make sure they keep up-to-date with any changes to the law. There are lots of organisations that can help you do this. See Sources of help and advice for details. 

More detailed information:

  

What the law says: 

1.3 You must manage any conflict of interest between the charity and any person or organisation who appoints charity trustees 

What this means: 

A conflict of interest exists when your duty to act in the interests of the charity conflicts with: 

  • The interest of the person or organisation that appointed you as a charity trustee (an “appointment conflict”).

Although not mentioned in the law there is another type of conflict of interest that you should be aware of: 

  • Conflicts with your own personal or business interests (a “personal conflict”).

How you can achieve this: 

Conflicts of interest can and do come up: it is how you manage them that is important. 

  • Identify:

    • Have conflict of interest as a regular agenda item at the beginning of charity trustee meetings.
    • Declare any potential conflicts of interest as soon as you become aware of them.
  •  Manage:

    • Have a conflict of interest policy.
    • Have clear procedures in place that state what should happen if there is a conflict of interest and how the charity trustees will deal with it. For example, the conflicted charity trustee might withdraw from the meeting or part of the meeting.
  • Record:

    • Keep a written record of the situation and what the charity did about it
  • Learn:

    • Learn from the experience, make improvements to the charity’s policy and procedures and where necessary seek professional advice. 

More information: 

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