Report reveals crisis of confidence in trustees

Anita Pati

Almost half of voluntary sector managers think poor trustee skills are hindering their charity's governance, according to a report published last week.

In Managing Risk, Targeting Governance by charity accountants PKF and the Charity Finance Directors' Group, 45 per cent of the respondents cited trustees as a key factor limiting their charities.

However, the research also found that trustees don't always get enough support - almost a third receive no summary of their key role requirements, duties and responsibilities.

About 20 per cent of charities do not provide induction to new trustees, and 10 per cent of respondents felt the ineffectiveness of the relationship between trustees and managers was mainly down to a lack of trust.

The research was conducted between May and July and surveyed a total of 277 people, mostly finance directors and chief executives, across 267 charities.

Charles Cox, head of charities at PKF, said: "At a time when many charities find attracting new trustees difficult, they need to do everything they can to make the role attractive or many will miss out on bringing in genuinely enthusiastic trustees."

But delegates at the Bates, Wells & Braithwaite governance conference in Bodmin tomorrow will hear a sector leader warn that charities risk losing "their heart and soul" by encouraging a careerist notion of trusteeship.

Blair Thomson, chair of the Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum, will criticise the Charity Commission for claiming in its Get on Board campaign that trusteeship will help individuals move up the career ladder.

"Being a trustee is not a career," he will argue. "It is an act of altruism and a gift to the community. People with passion but few skills can be trained - they are more useful than people with skills but no passion."

But Linda Laurance, the former chair of the Charity Trustee Networks, said altruism and skilled trusteeship were not mutually exclusive.

- See Editorial, page 22.

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