Role of UK Charity Trustees and Board Committee Duties & Responsibilities

Role of UK charity trustees - specialist duties and responsibilities, such as finance, secretary, fundraising and safeguarding.

Role of UK Charity Trustees and Board Committee Duties & Responsibilities

This guide to the role of a UK charity trustee and board sub committees that have been given specific responsibilities to lead on a particular area builds on my guide to charity chair, committee and trustee roles and  responsibilities.  What might be required for any given charity, depends on its circumstances but these key points should help you in thinking through how to allocate charity trustee roles and committee responsibilities. 

Lead Charity Trustee Role and Board Committee Responsibilities

Charity Trustee boards often meet only a few times a year and having lead trustees or committees with specific responsibilities for key issues can be a very good way to exercise effective oversight.  Remember that charity trustees can delegate authority to others but not their responsibilities, so the trustee board ultimately retains responsibility for everything. The key charity trustee responsibilities below can be augmented by our other guides, as well as logging in to download committee terms of reference and policies from the governance questionnaire and policies.  Scroll to the bottom for how to do that.

Finance Trustee (Treasurer) Role and Responsibilities

A charity treasurer will advise trustees on their financial responsibilities, may chair the finance/audit committee and liaise with professional advisors, such as auditors.  In small charities, the role will be much more hands on, perhaps including routine finance duties, such as budgeting and preparation of reports.  You can download charity finance terms of reference and various finance policies by logging in to Charity Excellence.

  • Oversee the charity's finances to ensure its regulatory and legal responsibilities met and comply with charity accounting practice.
  • Oversee the annual budget (and risk plan) and that charity accounts are prepared and the key issues and risks reported to the trustee board in a timely and effective manner.
  • Monitor and report on the financial health of the charity at regular board meetings.
  • Lead in the development and implementation of finance policies, such as reserves, cash handling and systems of internal control.
  • Liaise with external auditors or advisors, if applicable.

Audit Committee

  • Liaise with the auditors on scoping and management of the audit.
  • Scrutiny of the annual accounts and report, and audit management letter and make recommendations to the trustee board.
  • If applicable, oversight of the internal audit function.

Secretary to the Board - Role and Responsibilities

A secretary is often a charity trustee who supports the board, often by taking on the administration and compliance, preparing for board meetings, taking meeting minutes and coordinating/organising other meetings.  However, the secretary may also be a member of staff or even someone external paid to fill the role. Where a charity is a company, the secretary has additional duties under company law
and common law in his or her capacity as a company secretary, for example preparing
and filing annual returns.  We have guides on charity meetings and AGMs and EGMs.

  • Liaising with the chair and trustees in arranging meetings, agendas and papers, taking minutes and administration of meetings and record keeping.
  • Ensure the board is aware of its responsibilities in respect of the legal and regulatory requirements of governing documents, charity law, company law, etc.
  • Manage and facilitate the induction and training of new trustees.

Safeguarding Trustee Role and Responsibilities

For a more detailed guide to charity trustees safeguarding responsibilities, see our safeguarding policy.

  • Supporting the Board is creating a safeguarding culture where everyone feels able to raise concerns, if they feel the need to and is confident that these will be dealt with properly and promptly.
  • Ensuring that trustees are aware of and follow the charity regulator and any specialist regulator's guidance.
  • Ensuring the charity board has an up-to-date safeguarding policy that everyone is made aware of and is applied consistently.
  • Ensuring that the correct DBS checks and any training required is undertaken, kept up-to-date and records properly maintained.

Fundraising Trustee Role and Responsibilities

For more on fundraising regulatory requirements and trustee responsibilities for fundraising, see our guide to fundraising regulation and law.  We also have a guides to fundraising training courses and encouraging trustees to be actively involved in fundraising and you can download fundraising development committee terms of reference and a range of fundraising policies by logging in.

  • Ensure that the trustees are aware of their statutory obligations for fundraising and actively encouraging them to support fundraising activities.
  • Working to ensure that the charity has up-to-date policies that are applied consistently to ensure fundraising is ethical, effective and complies with regulatory guidance.
  • Leading on creating a fundraising culture across the charity that reflects this.
  • Providing oversight of fundraising finances to ensure that activities are adequately funded in the budget and income forecasts are prudent and regularly updated.

Property Trustee Role and Responsibilities

You can download property committee terms of reference from the governance questionnaire.

  • Ensuring that legal and regulatory obligations are understood and complied with.
  • Oversight of the ongoing maintenance programme and related contracts to ensure property is well maintained, safe and works well for those using it.
  • Ensuring that there are capital maintenance estimates and timescale and these are provided for in the strategy and reserves.
  • Oversight of equipment and property asset schedules and write offs.
  • Leading on building related budget items and oversight of expenditure on property issues.

Charity Investment Committee Role and Responsibilities

For more on trustee responsibilities for charity investments, see our investment policy guide.

  • Ensuring that the charity investment policy is consistently applied and reviewed by the board regularly.
  • Supporting the trustee board in being clear on its appetite in respect of risk and reward and making decisions that ensure this fits with the current investment climate and to maximise returns in line with the policy.
  • Complying with legal duties and requirements when planning, managing, and reviewing the charity’s investments.
  • Oversight of the investment manger and portfolio and taking seeking professional advice when necessary.
  • Oversight of investment reports and ensuring the Board is kept up to date on performance, and opportunities and risks.

Pay and Remuneration Committee

  • Supporting the trustee board in ensuring that pay and benefits will attract and retain high calibre staff whilst being affordable and seen to be fair and reasonable by beneficiaries and other stakeholders.
  • Making recommendations to the trustee board on cost of living pay increases, senior salaries and wage scales and/or remuneration policy, if applicable.
  • Ensuring policies and practice comply with regulatory and legal guidance.
  • Ensuring decisions about pay and benefits follow a robust, evidence-based process.
  • Ensuring that policies and decisions are consistent and fair, and do not discriminate against individuals or groups.
  • Assessing and reporting any wage gaps to the trustee board with recommendations on action to address these.

Charity Trustee Governance Committee

  • Ensuring compliance with regulatory and legal guidance in managing board governance.
  • Supporting the trustee board in developing and consistently implementing a trustee code of conduct and board policies.
  • Creating a draft annual work plan and standing agenda items for board approval to ensure all key areas of work are adequately covered.
  • Leading on board sub committee terms of reference and delegations, ensuring that all key decisions are made by the board collectively.
  • Supporting the board in promoting good governance through effective induction procedures, training and creating an open positive culture in which trustees always act with reasonable skill and care and in the charity's best interests.
  • Oversight of board effectiveness by routinely reviewing board decision making and processes, ensuring an annual skills audit is carried out and periodically carrying out a governance review.
  • Leading on trustee recruitment and succession planning.

Other Charity Trustee Resources

We also have resources, including charity trustee code of conduct, charity trustee training and 20 ways to be a good trustee.

To download charity policies, register (everything is free), then login.  Once logged in, click the AI bunny icon, then his policies button and tell him which policy you want and he'll hop off and get it for you in Word.  To download committee terms of reference, score the governance questionnaire.

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