Young people can help identify new ways of working, increase your networking opportunities, and ensure your board is dynamic, representative and accountable.

So if you want to have young people on your board, what are some of the issues you need to consider?

If you’re a charity, you need to think about the minimum age for a charity trustee. The Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 doesn’t set a minimum age for charity trustees. But the age of full legal capacity is set at 16 in Scotland, so any person under the age of 16 cannot act as a charity trustee. This fits in with the Companies Act 2006 which states that company directors must be aged 16 or over.

Remember it’s a long-term commitment, but you may get great support and commitment for many years to come

If your trustees are between 16 and 18, you still need to think about other considerations. Issues include whether young trustees would be able to fully carry out their duties. For example, most banks require cheque signatories to be aged 18 or over, even though in Scotland, those aged 16 and over can enter into contracts. Also, some insurance policies may not automatically cover people under 18. And consider whether having young trustees is in the best interests of your organisation.

There’s an additional complication if your organisation is unincorporated. Unlike companies and Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisations (SCIOs), unincorporated organisations are not separate legal entities in their own right, and they therefore exist and act through their trustees. So, for example, any property of an unincorporated charity would be held in the name of its individual trustees.

If you do ultimately decide you want under-18s on your board, consider forming as a company or SCIO. Also look at setting a limit on the number of trustees who can be under 18, depending on the size and activities of your organisation.

But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t consider other ways of getting young people involved in your organisation. Becoming a trustee may not be the most appropriate way of involving young people, and some alternatives would be for young people to be advisors to the board, representatives of users or beneficiaries, or fundraisers or event planners. You could also have under-18s as members of your organisation, but without voting rights until they are 18.

Whatever you decide, anyone coming into your organisation should have a proper induction to help them understand their responsibilities, and any liabilities involved. If they are young and inexperienced, get your existing trustees to help, and offer a named supporter for any newbies. Make sure your board papers are easy to understand, and meetings are held at convenient times to all. Give them ongoing training and ensure you pay any expenses promptly. Remember it’s a long-term commitment that could involve extra work, but you may get great support and commitment for many years to come.

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SCVO Information service

If you or your board need help get in touch with the SCVO Information Service on 0800 169 0022 or find information online.

Guide to good governance

Our comprehensive guide to what it means to be a member of a governing board. Available as hard copy and PDF. Visit our shop.

Conference

We’re planning Scotland’s first national Trustee Conference on Saturday 8 November which offers a chance to network and learn with your peers. Let us know what you would like to see included in the programme. Email enquiries@scvo.org.uk

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