There are many joys in being a trustee of a charity, including that sense of wellbeing which is present when realising that the time and effort along with the responsibilities of the position mean that the charity which one is supporting can achieve its objects. That is why we take on the role of trustee and why we are prepared to allocate time and expertise to the voluntary role. Knowing that the charitable purpose is being achieved in part down to our input is often all the thanks we require.

The responsibilities can be considerable and often cause one to question the merit of accepting the role. These responsibilities are also being constantly updated and it is a requirement that a trustee is as up to date as can be reasonably expected.

Recently the Charity Commission has been allocated additional funds to enable it to improve its monitoring processes of the sector. As a result of this there are likely to be more reports of the Charity Commission taking action against trustees for not ensuring that their charity is complying with the regulations. 

At times trustees may feel that the Charity Commission is a ‘Big Brother’ constantly looking over the shoulder of individuals who are ‘trying to do good’. However the sector is normally accounting for large amounts of public funding which the public are entitled to be assured that the funds are spent on the purpose for which they were raised and has significant tax advantages over other parts of the economy.

 There are regular reports of charity trustees being disqualified for not ensuring that their charity complies with the accounting and filing requirements of Charity legislation. This is one of the more basic requirements of being a trustee, ensuring annual accounts are prepared and comply with relevant legislation; ensuring that they are examined or audited depending on the level of income; filing them with Companies House (if a limited company within 9 months of the year end) and Charity Commission within 10 months of the year end. If the charity is not able to comply with these basic requirements it is frequently seen as an indication of the ability of the trustees to fulfil some of the more complex aspects of their responsibilities.

Some of these include ensuring that policies are current and relevant to the charity in 2018. This may include a review of the risks the charity faces; reserves policies; investment policies; ensuring the charity is receiving value for money on the services it pays for; are the various requirements of being an employer being complied with? Then there are additional policies and systems which need review, ensuring that the charity is not being defrauded, are the trustees happy with the sources of donations they receive.

Our specialist Charities team at Thomas Westcott are able to support trustees by advising on many of these matters, by meeting with you, by our twice yearly newsletter and by our free trustees charity seminars.


By Steve Cresswell, Partner.