This guide was created after we ran an information workshop for some of our Together Fund partner organisations on board and governance structures.
The workshop was attended by staff and trustees of some small community-based organisations operating on a Community Interest Company model (CIC). We discussed board and governance structures relevant to their social enterprises. Therefore, this guide is specific to their interests, but we covered charities too. This guide is not exhaustive and is based on people’s experiences. It is not advice, and you should always take care to check any legal obligations etc.
A board of trustees is responsible for the governance of a charity. They ensure it is effectively and properly run and meets its overall purposes.
Typically, the board consists of trustees who work together and take overall responsibility for the organisation. Being a trustee is a formal role. CIC’s do not use the term trustee but may use another term such as committee member or director: what matters is the role, not the title.
Who you recruit, the diversity and the makeup of your board are very important. Having a diverse board ensures equal representation of different opinions and voices.
When selecting and advertising for trustees:
Who should be on your board:
There are certain minimum requirements that your board reach, depending on what organisation you are.
You need to be clear from the start about why your board exists, its legal requirements, and what are the accountabilities if something goes wrong?
Finances spent as agreed
Certain organisations/governing bodies may have different/certain requirements, so do check these. This could be that you must meet a minimum number of times per year, can be an “advisory group” rather than a “board”, must meet the aims and objectives of the council/governing body). Do check that you are a charity limited by guarantee. This is a specific set-up for charities. If not, you need to go through a process at the board to see how you are protecting yourselves (via the Articles of Association).
Always take out expert advice when needed.
How, when and where you meet as a board is really important. To help board meetings run smoothly, the format and frequency of board meetings must work for all members and any key staff who attend.
Some tips for hosting successful board meetings are:
• Consider hosting an annual Board Away Day. This would be to look at your organisational strategy, not to discuss operational or business matters. Questions you might explore could include: Why do we do this? What are our members telling us?
• One or more staff members might come to present at part of a board meeting. For instance, they present a new project or the results of a completed project. Staff members other than the CEO and an Executive/personal assistant would not attend the entire meeting. However, there may be times when it is appropriate for the Leadership Team to join for the whole meeting.
• It’s good practice to have a short, closed section of the board meeting (usually at the start) without *any* staff member (including the CEO) present. Board members may have concerns they wish to discuss privately.
• Think about the time of the day you have the board meetings. Evenings work well for many trustees who work or have other commitments. However, if you want a staff member to attend part of the meeting, would this work?
You can learn more about board governance on these useful pages
The charity governance code website enables and supports a charity’s compliance with the law and relevant regulations.
Visit the government website for more information on what duties Trustees should perform
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