Becoming a trustee

What does it mean to be a trustee?

Trustees are the people who serve on the governing boards of charities. They have ultimate legal responsibility for the charity’s management and administration.

It’s a volunteering role with big responsibilities but it’s a rewarding and significant way to make a difference. You’ll develop new skills and experience, and you’ll meet a whole range of new people.

You’ll have the chance to shape, support and contribute your ideas and knowledge to an organisation.

As many as half of charities are looking for new trustees at any one time. Some need professional expertise, such as in finance, fundraising or IT, but you don’t need to be a specialist to be valuable. Fresh perspective, commitment and some common sense are some of the most valuable things a trustee can bring.

In larger charities, trustees support and challenge the management team, whereas in smaller charities they are likely to have more hands-on involvement.

Depending on the size of the charity, trustees will usually meet formally four to eight times per year. Between meetings, you’ll be expected to read papers and keep up-to-date with what is going on in the organisation. You may take on other commitments such as overseeing specific projects or areas of work.

Finding a trustee role

  • Do-It.org, the national volunteering database, often lists trustee vacancies
  • The Trustee Bank, where members of the charity representative body NCVO list their vacancies.
  • You could directly approach an organisation you know or admire and express your interest in trusteeship.
  • You could register with a trustee recruitment agency, such as Trustees Unlimited.
  • CharityJOB, Third Sector jobs and Guardian jobs frequently advertise trustee roles alongside paid-for roles. These are often with larger or wealthier charities as many of the advertisers or recruiters charge for this service.
  • Your local Volunteer Centre may keep a register of local charities and voluntary organisations that are looking for trustees.
  • If your employer might be willing to support you to become a trustee – and there are lots of skills development benefits to trusteeship – you can join the Step on Board Open Programme, a training and matching service that will help you secure a trustee role in line with your skills, motivations and interests.