Charity trustees may have their expenses reimbursed and be paid for providing services to their charities under the rules of the 2006 Charities Act.
They can also be compensated for loss of earnings when they attend meetings, providing it's allowed in the charity's governing document or sanctioned by the Charity Commission or the courts.
But what about payment for the actual work of being a trustee? It's a thorny question that has popped up again now that the RNIB has obtained permission to pay its chair £24,000 a year. Payment is the exception rather than the rule and, again, authority must come from the govening document, the commission or the courts. Commission guidance remains weighted heavily in favour of preserving unpaid trusteeship as a guiding principle of charities.
There is evidence all around that you can get outstanding trustees without paying them. But is it getting any easier, especially in the case of large or complex charities that ask a lot of their trustees? Twenty or 30 years ago there was a much wider pool than there is now of married women who didn't work and were available to be trustees. Another significant source has been senior civil servants, retiring at the age of 60 or less with pensions so generous they no longer need all their activities to be remunerated. This group is also shrinking and will continue to do so.
Most modern charities don't want their boards stuffed with Lady Bountifuls and Sir Humphreys. But is it getting any easier to attract other groups as trustees - younger people and those from a wider range of backgrounds and income levels? Certainly it would help if employers were more generous about staff having time off for trusteeship and other forms of volunteering. But the demands of work, family and a modicum of leisure are very intense in modern society, and there is every chance that the pressure for trustee payment is only going to increase.