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Trustees' Week Blog #3 - Are you confident that your charity board is fit for purpose?

Welcome to Trustees' Week, now in its 12th year! There are over 250,000 trustees in Scotland who guide the work of our vibrant voluntary sector.

Throughout this week, we're featuring daily blogs by Abi Clarke, our Development Officer, who has based her blog topics from conversations with various organisations across Moray over the last 6 months.

Read Abi's third blog below.


Within a charity, the board of trustees has overall responsibility and accountability for everything the charity does.

Trustees are normally unpaid volunteers who are interested in the charity's work.

Charles Mesquita, a trustee of RL Glasspool, Bowel & Cancer Research and Prism The Gift Fund, recalls his first experience as a trustee many years ago for a local village hall.

“It was a cathartic experience. The first challenge was educating the management committee that they were in fact charity trustees.”

If you are involved within a charity board, some key questions you may want to ask to ensure that your board is fit for purpose are:

1) Do your board members understand the organisation? This refers to their induction and if this was adequate enough. No matter how small or large a charity, a comprehensive induction is critical, so they new trustees feel confident about sharing knowledge and understand the organisation.

2) Is there a good mix of skills and experiences within your board? This is an area which should be reviewed regularly as your activities may change, which may require new skillsets. You should also take this into account when trustees leave. Carrying out a skills audit is vital.

3) Have board members been in position for too long? Within trustees’ paperwork, it should include maximum length of term, which follows good governance.

4) Does your board have a quick turnaround? This is almost the opposite to the previous question as it can take time for trustees to have a good understanding of a board. With this, it’s important to consider how often you meet as a board.

5) Do you provide too much unnecessary detail and documentation to the board? Papers should be provided to the Board in a timely manner and not on the day of meetings. The Charity Governance Code has a user-friendly framework to work with. “The easiest way to kill the fun of being a trustee is to overload them with procedures manuals that lack any real practical use”, explains Civil Society.

Make time to carry out a comprehensive charity health check. This will highlight areas in your charity that might be draining your resources, reducing impact in your community, and even put the charity at risk.

There are several areas within a health check which will be looked at including:

- Trustee board

- Governance

- Strategy

- Communication

- Performance

- Organisational systems

- Fundraising

- Collaborations and partnerships

This is an activity which small to medium sized charities throughout 2022 have carried out extensive work.

Results indicate that while the majority of charity teams are hardworking and dedicated, governance and organisation effectiveness may not be up to the standards of Charity Commission. Given this, charities are often not aware of how damaging these oversights can be.

Therefore, not dealing with these areas can lead to: low fundraising success rate, inefficient use of funds, risk of liability and reputation which decrease public and donor confidence in your charity.

However, dealing with issues in an appropriate manner and accordingly can lead to: improved partnership working and risk management, enhanced professionalism and improved performance.

Another helpful link for further information on how your charity board determine its ‘fit for purpose’ can be found at:

What to know more? Just email me, Abi Clarke, tsiMORAY’s Development Officer, Funding and Governance.

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