Keep it legal: Trustee training

The voluntary nature of trusteeship is one of the key principles of the charity sector. But trustees are increasingly expected to adopt a 'professional' approach and to be aware of the legal responsibilities of their role.

The Charity Commission says it is keen to encourage a more diverse range of people to become trustees. Although these new trustees increase the skills and experience base on boards, they may have little or no previous experience of the demands of trusteeship. Even those trustees who have been in post for some time will be keen to ensure their skills remain up to date so that they can make as effective a contribution as possible.

For this reason, it is increasingly common for charities to provide training for trustees, both when they begin their trustee roles and regularly throughout their terms of office. The commission has included the need for charities to identify and address their trustees' training needs in its guidance The Hallmarks of an Effective Charity. This best practice recommendation has been formalised by Sorp 2005, which requires charities to state in their annual reports how they recruit, induct and train their trustees. So it is important for charities to adopt an organised approach to trustee training and to keep documentary records of the training process for each trustee.

There are several different approaches to trustee training. Trustees could attend individual training courses run by external providers or share best practice tips by visiting or holding joint events with similar charities. Specialist products are available to provide bespoke training for boards of trustees, either at trustee awaydays or during regular charity meetings. Such training can be priced at an hourly or a delegate rate. An advantage of this type of package is that it is flexible enough to allow trustees to tailor programmes in ways that provide training in the most relevant areas for them.

By taking advantage of the range of training opportunities available, trustees can benefit from working with boards that are equipped with the right skills to handle the expectations and challenges of modern trusteeship. Offering training to new trustees can also open doors to a more diverse range of individuals and thus increase the effectiveness of boards.

- Charlotte Watts is an assistant solicitor in the charities department at Wilsons.

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