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Charity Trustee Duties

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


This part of the Guide tells charity trustees what the law says they must do or must not do. The charity trustee duties under the 2005 Act set out a broad framework that all charity trustees must work within. There is more detailed guidance called Guidance and good practice for Charity Trustees available on our website.

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

What are a charity trustee’s duties?

As a charity trustee, you are trusted to look after the charity’s assets and you are responsible for making sure that the charity fulfils its charitable purpose(s)

There are general duties that help charities to be run properly and specific duties that are legal requirements all charities must meet. 

Charity trustee duties  - Being a charity in Scotland

There are also some 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.

Finance and assets

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.