Information for new charity trustees

The Yard, Edinburgh

1. Know your organisation’s purpose

It’s vital as a trustee that you know about what your organisation was set up to do, how it’s trying to achieve it’s aims and who it’s trying to help.

You can find this out by reading your organisation’s governing document. This might be called its constitution, a Memorandum and Articles of Association, or a Trust Deed. Whatever it’s called, it will detail your organisation’s purposes, and the rules for how it should operate. As a trustee you need to follow these rules.

2. Get a good induction and meet your fellow trustees

You should be able to understand what your organization does and the challenges it faces. A good induction will help you understand your role and responsibilities, what the legal structure of your organization is and about any potential personal liabilities.

You should visit your organisation and get the opportunity to meet your fellow trustees and get to know them. You’re all collectively responsible and accountable for the overall governance of your organisation. If you can build relationships with your fellow trustees that demonstrate integrity, openness and mutual respect, this will improve the effectiveness of your board.

3. Put the interests of your organisation and its beneficiaries first

In everything you do as a trustee you must always put the interests of your organisation first. You should be aware of any matters that affect your organisation where you may have a personal interest, and identify any conflicts of interest so you can prevent them from affecting any decisions you make.

4. Prepare for meetings and make informed decisions

Attending regular meetings is an important part of being a trustee, this is where most of your work as a trustee will be done. You need to attend regularly and prepare thoroughly so you can contribute your views and ideas, and play a full part in discussions and collective decision making.

5. Learn about the finances

Find out about the current financial situation of your organisation, including any savings, property, and investments. Make sure you know about your banking arrangements, and any contracts or debts you have. Know where the money comes from and how the organisation plans to spend it.

6. Make sure you’re in control

Ask for copies of any key policies on areas such as risk, safeguarding and fundraising. Find out what the strategic plan is for the organisation. This will help you direct and oversee the progress and performance of your organisation.

7. Get to know your trustee duties

It’s important that you know your legal duties as a trustee, as they are relevant in all your activities and decisions, especially if your organisation is a charity or a company. There may also be other regulators that you need to report to, and you should ensure you’re up to date with any changes in the law that may affect your organisation and its work, eg Data Protection or Lobbying.

Page last modified on 31st January 2019