Regulation: Paying trustees

Rosie Chapman, executive director of policy and effectiveness at the commission, says charities are unlikely to be able to pay their trustees

Rosie Chapman, executive director of policy and effectiveness, the Charity Commission
Rosie Chapman, executive director of policy and effectiveness, the Charity Commission

Now more than ever, charities must be able to explain their non-visible costs and make sure they are operating as effectively as possible. Yet we still regularly receive requests from solicitors or boards seeking authorisation to pay a trustee purely for being a trustee.

The message that trusteeship should remain essentially voluntary was reiterated strongly in our guidance Trustee Expenses And Payments, but there appears to be some inconsistency in how clearly the message is filtering down. If a charity's governing documents do not allow for a trustee to be remunerated, the chances of us authorising payment are small. We will do so only when it is fully justified.

I do wonder whether some of these charities have really looked at the role of the trustee carefully enough before coming to the conclusion that the only way to get one is to offer payment. People become trustees for a number of reasons: commitment to the cause; personal development and experience; the kudos of the role.

The key question is whether paying a trustee for trusteeship is in the charity's interests and will help it achieve its purposes. Paying trustees - particularly now - would also require the charity in question to manage conflicts of interest in a visible way.

Compensating a trustee of a small local charity for lost earnings so they can accept the role is one thing; paying for what amounts to professional trusteeship is another. For those in doubt, re-reading our guidance should help provide the necessary clarity.

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