Why become a charity trustee

A woman

Pic: Auguste de Richelieu, Pexels

Most charities are keen to recruit a chartered accountant to their board because their financial skills and business acumen can prove invaluable to building an organisation’s financial sustainability. In return, most trustees find their role rewarding, and enjoy learning new skills and building new networks. 

Here are some of my top tips on how to find the right role, manage your risks, and add value from the get-go. 

Finding the right trustee role 

You can browse trustee vacancies on ICAEW Volunteers to explore a variety of charities and roles before you decide to apply for a role. Joining a trustee board is usually a multi-year commitment, so choose a charity whose work resonates with you. 

Use your professional skills and review the charity’s accounts before your interview for the role so that you can ask informed questions about the financial circumstances and longer-term sustainability of the charity, and to learn more about its activities and strategic priorities. Treat the interview as an opportunity to ask questions and to get an insight into the board environment. Meet the other trustees and ask if you could observe a board meeting; this will enable you to judge whether your skills, personal background, and characteristics would add diversity to the board composition. 

Don’t forget to ask about the induction process that you will receive to help you settle in the role. This should include receiving a welcome pack of information, including a copy of the charity’s governing document, which provides clarity over the boundaries in which the charity can legally operate. Find out if the charity offers trustee indemnity insurance, particularly if the charity in unincorporated. Most charities offer this, but consider joining the ICAEW’s Volunteering Community to benefit from the free insurance provided to its members. 

Last but not least, it’s important that you know how much time you can realistically give to the role and see if this matches the charity’s expectations. Depending on the size and staffing levels of the charity, the time commitments and expectations can vary significantly, and you should be clear whether you can fulfil your role responsibly before you agree to join a board. 

What exactly are your responsibilities as a trustee? 

Do you know what your responsibilities are as a trustee? We have created Trustee Training e-learning modules in collaboration with the Charity Commission for England and Wales and other sector experts to provide an overview of charity trustees’ legal and financial responsibilities and their strategic and operational considerations. 

Whether you are considering taking on a trustee role for the first time, or refresh your knowledge, anyone can access the training free of charge. You’ll gain an ICAEW certificate upon successful completion of the multiple-choice assessment, so take the time to refresh your knowledge of charity law and governance, learn more about the charity-specific accounting, tax and regulation topics, or consider how to measure a charity’s social impact. 

You can access the ICAEW Trustee training and share it with your fellow trustees to raise the knowledge of the whole board. Another great source of basic guidance for trustees is the Charity Commission’s 5-minute guides for charity trustees

How to keep your knowledge up to date 

The ICAEW’s Volunteering Community helps you stay up to date with tools and information to support you in your trustee journey. The Community provides quarterly e-newsletters, regular webinars and events, and a LinkedIn Group to help you connect with like-minded members. 

 

Finally, we would like to hear about your volunteering experience and learn how we can best support you in your role. You can contact me, ICAEW’s Head of Charity and Voluntary Sector, or connect with me on LinkedIn.

I look forward to hearing from you! 

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