Checklist: Trustees and donations

Governance expert Ruth Lesirge advises on whether trustees should be expected to give money to their charity

Ruth Lesirge says expectations differ between the UK and the US
Ruth Lesirge says expectations differ between the UK and the US

Do trustees have to donate money? The question seems conspicuous by its absence from governance conversations.

On US boards, trustees are expected to "give, get or get off". This is a requirement and responsibility for all who join the board. Using your networks to bring in donations is as acceptable as giving your own money. Arguably, this could help mitigate the worst vagaries of fluctuating funding streams. However, this approach sits in a very different tradition of governance and charitable giving from that in the UK.

The case against trustees donating money is that it could be a disincentive for some potential trustees and could breed a competitive strand in trustee relations.

Chief executives might feel it diminishes their leadership of fundraising and that trustee donors will have undue influence on strategy and operational matters.

Some trustees are indignant and say they want to donate only their time. Others say it's embarrassing to ask friends for money.

Do you have a shared view among your trustees? Is that view expressed in your trustee recruitment literature? I think it should be.

Governance Advice

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