Take part

Help run a charity

Find out how you could help run a charity by volunteering as a charity trustee.


Charity trustees

Charity trustees direct how a charity is run and help make sure it does what it was set up to do. This includes making sure the charity:

  • sticks to its charitable mission
  • has the money it needs
  • spends that money responsibly on the activities it was raised for
  • follows the law and doesn’t break its own rules

Charity trustees are also known as:

  • directors
  • board members
  • governors
  • committee members

What they do

Charities vary widely in terms of size and purpose. Most charities are very small and many don’t have paid staff. In small charities, trustees may be expected to essentially run the charity. In larger charities, staff take on the day-to-day work and trustees have a more strategic role.

The main purpose of a trustee is to decide the charity’s priorities and future plans. Some also give practical help with the charity’s activities. Charity trustees also make sure the charity achieves its plans effectively.

The role of charity trustee requires commitment and responsibility. It also allows you to see the charity’s positive effects on people and society. Being a charity trustee can also help you gain new skills and experience that can help you develop your career.

Becoming a trustee

You must be over 18 to be a trustee (or 16 if the charity is set up as a company or Charitable Incorporated Organisation).

Charities need committed and enthusiastic people from a wide range of backgrounds. It depends on the charity whether you need any particular skills or experience.

Your charity should give you an introduction to its work, your role and advice about more training.

Charity trustees are almost always unpaid, but can receive ‘out of pocket’ expenses such as travel or childcare costs.

Who can’t be a trustee

Some people can’t be a charity trustee, for example because they:

  • have an unspent criminal conviction involving dishonesty or deception
  • are an undischarged bankrupt
  • have been banned from serving as a company director

Find vacancies for trustees

There are lots of ways you can find vacancies:

  • look for adverts in the press
  • find vacancies on the Do-It website
  • approach charities directly
  • use an organisation like Trusteeworks or trustees-unlimited, which match skilled volunteers to trustee roles
  • ask at your local volunteer centre
  • get more contacts and information on the Trustees’ Week website

Get advice about becoming a trustee

The Charity Commission’s guide The Essential Trustee explains the main legal responsibilities trustees have.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) is a good place to find out more about becoming a charity trustee.

Photo above by Dwonderwall on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.