Trustees’ week is a UK wide, annual event which highlights the important role that trustees play in the governance of charities and encourages individuals to become involved in the management of charities by becoming trustees.

As Trustees’ Week 2018 comes to a close we look at why becoming a Trustee means taking on responsibilities. However, it also creates opportunities to learn, develop new skills and make a positive impact.

What is a trustee?

Trustees are individuals who are responsible for the management and control of a charity. They must make all key decisions involving the charity and are accountable for the governance of the charity and its overall strategy.

Although becoming a trustee is a voluntary position, trustees have a fundamental role in the management of charities. It has been estimated that there are over 1 million trustees throughout the UK, 180,000 of which are in Scotland.

Who can become a trustee?

In Scotland, it is possible for anyone to become a trustee, provided they can comply with their duties. It is a role which can be carried out by younger through to older generations and by people with different backgrounds, experiences and skills. The participation of a wide range of ages, backgrounds and skills means that the governance of charities can truly benefit from a wide range of approaches and perspectives.

The only category of individual who cannot become a trustee are those who are disqualified from acting. This includes those with an unspent conviction for dishonesty, those who have been disqualified from being a company director and those who are a discharged bankrupt. However, OSCR (the Scottish Charity Regulator) has the power to waive the disqualification and allow individuals falling into the descriptions above to become trustees, if it deems this appropriate.

What duties must trustees comply with?

The duties which trustees in Scotland must comply with fall within two categories:

1. General duties
These duties require trustees to act in the interests of the charity and to act in compliance with the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005.

2. Specific duties
In addition to the general duties, trustees have five specific duties regarding:

1. the provision of information about the charity to the public;
2. the charity’s fundraising activities;
3. financial record keeping and reporting;
4. updating the charity’s details to ensure that the information on the Scottish Charity Register is up to date; and
5. reporting to OSCR by supplying certain information.

Compliance with these duties is important because non-compliance is deemed to be misconduct. OSCR may take action against trustees in breach of their duties. However, OSCR have stated that if a trustee has acted honestly and reasonably, their conduct is unlikely to be treated as misconduct.

Why become a trustee?

Despite the various duties trustees must comply with, becoming a charity trustee is generally a fulfilling experience. It is a way for individuals to volunteer their time and expertise to make a contribution to the charitable sector. It can enable trustees to “give something back” and get involved in a cause they feel passionate about.

Further, becoming a trustee can allow individuals to discover new interests and meet new people, as well as developing new skills and offering individuals management experience. Such experience can be invaluable to those wishing to further their careers.


Although trustees carry a great deal of responsibility, being a trustee is both an interesting and rewarding role. It is an invaluable opportunity to learn new skills and enhance your experience in a new context.

MacRoberts offers general and tailored training sessions for trustees as well as advice on all aspects of governance.