Trustees ensure their charity has a clear strategy, and that its work and goals are in line with its vision. A trustee's role in a charity is to be the ‘guardians of purpose’, making sure that all decisions put the needs of the beneficiaries first.
They safeguard the charity’s assets – both physical assets, including property, and intangible ones, such as its reputation. They make sure these are used well and that the charity is run sustainably.
Trustees don’t usually do the day-to-day running of the charity. They delegate this to the staff, led by the Managing Director. Instead, they play the role of a ‘critical friend’ to the Managing Director by giving support and by challenging, in a supportive way, to help them manage effectively. However, in smaller charities with few staff, trustees may take hands-on roles too.
Most trustee boards meet four to eight times a year. Many boards have sub-committees that focus on particular areas of work or projects. Where they do, trustees are often expected to get involved with one or more sub-committees, as well as having a good understanding of their charity’s work overall.
The Charity Commission have produced The Essential Trustee which is a very helpful guide.