The vital role of trustees – Cecile Gillard

One of the things we particularly love about the charity sector is the rich contribution made by trustees.

The charity sector is structured to be volunteer led. The law starts from the assumption that trustees are not employees of their charities and they do not receive any financial reward or material gain from their role. Trustees are stewards of charities for society and custodians of them for the public. Their focus is furthering the charity’s charitable purposes and delivering positive charitable outcomes.

We know that numbers only tell part of the story, but they do help us understand the context…

The latest Charity Commission research indicates there are more than 920,000 charity trustees serving on the boards of 184,000 registered charities. As there are about an equal number of charities that cannot be on the public Register of Charities, you can potentially double that total to around to 1.8 million volunteer charity trustees.

Financial stewardship is significant: The Charity Commission’s figures for charities with income over £500,000 record total annual income of £83.5 billion, direct charitable expenditure of £70.8 billion and net assets of £251 billion. If you add smaller registered charities and all the unregistered charities, the full figures will be considerably higher.

Most charities, whatever their size, are carrying out life changing work. This is more obvious in charities that work in highly specialist and life critical areas, like emergency rescue, relief work and medical settings. However, it’s also true in charities addressing social isolation, fuel and food poverty, mental health and wellbeing and beyond.

Therefore, trusteeship really is all about people, from those making it happen by applying their time and talents, to those people the charities are practically assisting. For example, consider the charitable efforts supporting carers (source: Carers’ UK):

  • The volunteer trustees of carers’ charities, as well as the huge number of people those charities directly help – carers, those receiving care and other members of those families
  • The value to wider society is enormous – carers provide services with an estimated annual economic value of £162 billion, equivalent to the total cost of the NHS
  • There are estimated to be nearly 10.6 million carers in the UK
  • Around 12,000 people a day become carers
  • People of all ages are involved as carers – estimates suggest around 800,000 carers are under 24

Trustees enable charities to provide opportunities for the public or,  in some cases, help people with  particular needs. In both cases, there is so much benefit to the entire community.  They make a positive difference to the environmental, wildlife and climate challenges our world is facing. They are bringing hope and help, supporting the most vulnerable, ignored and desperate people locally and across the world.

Let’s recognise and celebrate the remarkable positive effect trustees have on the world around us. The contribution of charity trustees is vital to all of us.


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