How to be an effective trustee


Good and effective trustees are essential to ensure that your organisation is well governed and able to meet its objectives. More effective trustees will lead to more effective charities, and this, of course benefits everyone.


Below are 7 habits that we believe effective boards of trustees should demonstrate and be aware of:


– Charity boards must be clear about the dividing lines between their job and managements. Boards govern, set strategies, approve budgets, and champion the cause. The boards advice may be sought and specific expertise tapped but they are not generally responsible for running the organisation.


– The relationship between the Chief Executive and Chair is important. There must be respect between them and an understanding of professional/personal boundaries.


– The board has overall responsibility for its funds, reputation and staff. It is also accountable to its members and its backers.


– Risk management is crucial. It can be too easy to glance at calculations on a spreadsheet and assume all is well. Trustees need to assess risks with realism and imagination and ensure all bases are covered.


– Trustees must understand that being a Trustee is a real job. To do it properly takes up more time than you may be initially told. If boards delegate power to specific individuals they need to be clear of scope of delegation, and actions should be subject to scrutiny.


– Boards need a mix of skills, experience and age. Most charities aim to include financial management, legal and media skills.


– Trustee training and feedback are essential. Training courses often cover the legal aspects of being a trustee but rarely talk about the dynamics and relationships of working with internal management or the politics of working within the roles of a board.


In conclusion being a trustee is not straightforward and at times may seem thankless, it can also be challenging and testing of principles. However, being a trustee can be worthwhile, interesting and fun as demonstrated by the 1000′s of individuals who carry out the role successfully every day.