Becoming a trustee

What is a trustee?

Trustees oversee everything a charity does, from setting its strategy to being responsible for its work and finances.

They’re volunteers with big responsibilities but being a trustee is a rewarding way to make a difference. As a trustee you’ll develop new skills and experience while contributing your ideas and knowledge to an organisation.

What do trustees do?

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 a year. Between meetings, you’ll be expected to read papers and keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the organisation. You may take on other commitments such as overseeing specific projects or areas of work.

Finding a trustee role?

  • Search Trustee Bank, where members of the charity representative body, NCVO, list their vacancies. You can also look at national volunteering database Do-it.org
  • Register with a trustee recruitment agency. The Big Give Trustee Finder, TrusteeWorks and Trustees Unlimited, which is part owned by NCVO, are such examples
  • CharityJobThird Sector jobs and Guardian jobs frequently advertise trustee roles.
  • Your local volunteer centre may keep a register of local charities and voluntary organisations that are looking for trustees
  • If your employer is 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. This is a training and matching service that will help you secure a trustee role in line with your skills, motivations and interests
  • You could directly approach an organisation you know and express your interest in becoming a trustee

Find out more

As many as half of charities are looking for new trustees at any one time. If you want to know more about what being a trustee involves then these resources may help:

  • The Charity Governance Code helps trustees make sure they’re running their charity well
  • The Charity Commission’s guidance The Essential Trustee covers what’s required of a charity trustee, including your responsibilities to your charity
  • NCVO’s KnowHowNonProfit pages on Governance
  • NCVO’s Study Zone video training has a number of relevant courses. Use search terms like trustee or governance. These are free for NCVO members. More information about joining is available here
  • NCVO has a more comprehensive book called the Good Trustee Guide as an excellent resource for anyone taking on a trustee role