I’ve just been reading the April edition of the Charity Commission Newsletter (always worth checking over). One of the articles featured highlights the issue of people sitting on management committees who don’t realise they are a trustee.
It’s a situation I have encountered on several occasions with people attending my governance training courses. People are asked to join a committee to run a village hall, for example, and don’t realise this means they are actually a charity trustee with a number of key responsibilities under charity law.
Anyone invited to join a committee needs basic information in order to make an informed decision on whether or not to accept the role. If it’s a charity they aren’t currently involved with, then they need to know why it exists, who it helps and how. They also need to be clear on what the committee role involves (a brief description of the duties, including the legal responsibilities if this is a charity trustee role) and what the time commitment will be (how many meetings will be held each year). Background information should be supplied by the organisation eg copy of the governing document, annual report and accounts and general publicity material.
The Charity Commission has a range of useful and very readable downloadable guides on the duties and responsibilities of charity trustees. I would recommend ‘The Essential Trustee’ a guide which clearly sets out the responsibilities of charity trustees. Following consultation on a new draft of the publication, a revised version will be produced for the summer.