Guest blog by @juliekhutchison – reflecting on #trusteehour 9: looking at charity sub-committees

With over 3,500 views, our July #trusteehour looked at charity sub-committees, and the ups and downs shared by followers online.  It looks like some of you really value the blog to bring together the contributions into one summary – thanks for getting in touch @JanineEEdwards


Charity sub-committees can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  Whether it’s Finance, Fundraising, Nominations, HR or Audit, there are plenty of examples of boards delegating to smaller working groups.  Are these committees always effective?  @sallyld drew out a few examples of what can make a committee worthwhile:

@sallyld replying to @trusteehour

Ah sub committees. They can be brilliant with a tight remit, clear reporting structures and a clear review process. Otherwise steer well clear (in my opinion). 

Committees can be a necessary way to focus on delivery of the board’s strategy and objectives, as @ian_mcl points out – a board does not have time to get into the detail of everything, and needs to find mechanisms to support delivery and oversight:

@Ian_mcl replying to @TrusteeLeaders @trusteehour

4 board meetings pa for 3 hrs is 12 hours a year to do everything. Create work plan and delegate spadework to cttees to get coverage without having too many. Driven by board objectives. 

However, there were some examples of poor time management, which raises questions about how meetings are being chaired:


And Ian wasn’t alone in that experience.

We returned to the theme of the importance of a tight remit, and the way things can become inefficient if not handled well:

julie 9.png

Another angle we drew attention to was the opportunity offered by a committee role, as a first experience of charity governance, or a means to share your expertise without the full commitment of a trustee role.  A number of charties do co-opt external members.  External members can share their expertise on whichever sub-committee they sit, although don’t attend board meetings and are usually not trustees.

We would like to encourage more charities to consider co-opting new members onto their sub-committees.  This could be a win-win.  A great way for someone new to charity governance to gain some first experience and volunteer in a way which is less onerous than a full board role.  It enables them to get to know a charity, where later they may consider a trustee role when a vacancy arises.  This ‘getting to know you’ process works both ways, and it could also prove particularly useful as a way to involve younger people in their first role:

@TraceyMcCillen replying to @trusteehour

Will certainly give it some thought and let you know. Keen to engage Young Trustees and see change in perception on how people with learning disability can engage at all levels of governance, Board, Committees etc.

If your charity could create a committee role to expand the pipeline of future trustees, there’s a place on twitter where vacancies can be shared:

julie 3

Finally, join us for our next #trusteehour on Tuesday 14th August, 7-8pm (note earlier time) where @TheYardScotland is hosting us as we look at top tips for charities embarking on a capital build project, a theme we’re supporting to help the Yard with their forthcoming new project.  We’re keen to continue to take #trusteehour on tour – if your charity has a specific area of interest for a future #trusteehour, get in touch with us @trusteehour!

Blog by Julie Hutchison @juliekhutchison
Founding Editor of @InformedTrustee

12 August 2018

Please note: some of the graphics were unable to load on this occasion, so they are placed as text. 

Reflections on #trusteehour 8: When is it time for a trustee to step down?

Our last  (12th June) asked the question: When is it time for a trustee to step down?  We always encourage contributions and themes and this time this one was provided by 

This is a good question in its own right. However, we have discussed in the past the need for many organisations to simply recruit more (of the right) trustees.  You don’t want anyone to resign, surely not? Well, they must, but when is the right time? We had many really interesting contributions that took us in a few different directions.

@TrusteeLeaders kicked us off by saying “If you lose your passion for the , then perhaps that would be a sign it’s time to move on”.   I have seen this happen myself – not the passion for the cause but many new board members bought in that upset the dynamics and made me feel incomfortable with the direction of travel. Another example was posted by @talktokeiran who raised the issue of an awful CEO, leading to resignations or members expending huge amounts of time and stress – this Keiran said leads to the problem being untreated.  Another example was posted by @ArloAccountancy:

We then turned to the charity governing documents by considering the kind of length of tenure participants had typically seen as a limit? @TrusteeLeaders responded to suggest that they will be putting into the governing doc a tenure limit. suggested that 9 years should be the maximum, except in expectional circumstances. Many participating in a poll posted by @weavermiles could find examples of trustees being on the board in excess of 10 years.  At least @getonboardCmyru made a joke by saying even if a board recruits a young trustee it’s likely that after 9 years, that they will still be young!

Another suggestion was posed by who noted the importance of a trustee appraisal.  He continued to note that too few do it, but it helps you have conversations that need to occur. This would provide a good opportunity to review relevance and fit between role and the board.

@talktokieran offered some interesting advice to see if the board has had any difficulty with trustees attrition. He suggests to review members under three years to see where the problem might lie (or more specifically with whom?).

@BCharitable suggested ‘Rotation’ provisions might be best for some but not others and added “whatever is used, needs to be informed decision before things are ‘locked in’ & affects board effectiveness in time”.

@Weavermiles started a poll around another suggestion that he saw happen with a board. That being a “three strikes and your out” policy to ensure good attendance. Members are of course allowed to register apologises.  @sallyld did ask us all to consider whether attendance at meetings necessarily equate to quality input and good governance. @JoGibney below said that it is a red flag and may well indicate lower input and engagement. I think this might be a good topic in its own right for another time?

I think we should end with a why not? Posed by @JoGibney:

The next trusteehour is coming up on Thursday 19th July 8 – 9pm. See you then?


Launching Committee Pathways, June 2018

For those of you who have been following #trusteehour on twitter, you’ll know that Miles Weaver and I are pretty motivated by supporting others to take on a charity trustee role with confidence.  We’re both involved in a range of projects connected with this end in mind.

There is, however, a reality check sometimes.   When I was speaking about charity trustee roles with an audience from a Young Person’s Network, I was left with a sense of a roomful of 20-somethings keen to have come along to find out more, but some of whom were daunted by the prospect of what might be involved.  Some young people do indeed take on charity trustee roles, and talk positively about that experience.  These contributions to #trusteehour prove the point:

julie 1

For others, it may feel like too much too soon.

If only there could be a way to gain experience, without being exposed to the full legal duties and responsibilities involved……

At the ‘Unconference’ session during the Trustees’ Week 2017 event in Edinburgh, I facilitated a workshop group exploring ideas around how to encourage a pipeline of new (and younger) trustees.  The concept of an apprenticeship was discussed. A charity would however need to have time and resources to support the creation of this kind of temporary role.  For busy and stretched charities, this might not always be easy.

Since the Unconference session, we’ve been thinking about how to help fill this gap.  After some discussions with umbrella groups to test the concept, we’re now ready to rollout Committee Pathways.

Committee Pathways is intended to be an enabling online platform where committee role vacancies can be shared.  It lives on twitter @Pathways_C

For those following the competency pathway for trustees in use at Edinburgh Napier University, a committee role would be one way to gain some governance-related experience.  At the same time, a committee role might be exactly the right ‘fit’ for someone of any age happy to share their expertise with a charity in a non-trustee role, finding that the time commitment better reflects what they’re able to take on.

Here’s the first selection of committee roles shared:

julie 2

julie 3

Now, to turn to the supply side.  Does your charity’s governing document allow non-trustees to be co-opted onto committees?  Could your charity do with a few extra pairs of hands on one or more of your committees?  If the answers are ‘yes’, then we can help to publicise your vacancies.

If your charity is on twitter, tweet about your vacancy, with a role profile and closing date.  Use the handle @Pathways_C and we’ll spot and share your vacancy online.  If you’re not on twitter, could someone else help to post your vacancy online?

The second half of 2018 will be a pilot to gauge how this approach might help to support attracting new entrants into future trustee roles.  It’s entirely possible that a committee role could later lead to a board role opportunity.   Taking on a committee role enables someone to get to know a charity, find out more about how it operates ‘on the inside’ and get to know others involved in running the charity.  It could be a positive volunteering experience in itself and a great confidence-builder and pathway towards a future trustee role.

The supply and demand side both need to emerge for Committee Pathways to have impact.  Time will tell.  We’re offering this as a pilot for the second half of the year, and we’ll see how it goes.  It’s the theme for July’s #trusteehour on Thursday 19th July 8-9pm – join the conversation online @trusteehour to explore more.

Julie Hutchison, 13 June 2018

Founder @InformedTrustee

Co-Founder @trusteehour and @Pathways_C


Guest blog by @juliekhutchison – reflecting on #trusteehour 7

With over 7,000 views, our topic for May’s #trusteehour clearly struck a chord – what research should you do before saying yes to a charity trustee role? Thanks to @RummleGumption for the theme idea.
Here are the top tips shared:
1. Basic due diligence online means checking out a charity’s website; googling for news stories involving the charity; look at their accounts online; look at their information on the charity regulator’s website. Thanks to @ian_mcl for his list of these.
2. Think people and culture, as @friend_natasha points out:


3. Look carefully to find out about the exact legal structure of the charity. There are two main kinds. One is unincorporated (for example a trust or an unincorporated association). The other is incorporated (for example a company limited by guarantee, or a CIO in England and Wales, or SCIO in Scotland). This latter type offers a bit more liability protection for charity trustees and has other benefits, such as contracts can be in the name of the charity instead of individual trustees.
4. Find out if the charity has indemnity insurance in place. Some do, some don’t. For unincorporated charities, this was seen as being particularly important:


5. Consider practical things, like location, which day of the week are board meetings held, and at what time. Those practical points could rule a potential trustee role in or out – also check out skype/video conference options, which might be specifically enabled in a charity’s governing document:



6. Do you get any help from your employer? There was mixed experience with this one, with some employers actively offering paid leave to support employees who take on voluntary roes:





7. If things get to the interview stage, ask for a copy of the governing document if it’s not otherwise available online – worth a read in advance:


8. Understand what the time commitment is going to be. Will there be committee meetings as well as board meetings? Will you be expected to ‘represent’ the charity and be an ambassador at events, as @sallyld points out:


9. To help make sure you are not ‘out of pocket’ in taking on a trustee role, what expenses does the charity offer to refund? It’s normal to find travel expenses can be refunded, for traveling to and from a board meeting. But there might be more help available. @ian_mcl shared an interesting idea for charity boards, which may help encourage younger candidates to consider a trustee role:

10. If you’re in Scotland, check out @GoodHQ for reviews and comments on charities in Scotland – this can help you research a role:


Two blogs were shared.  The first was a guest blog I wrote for OSCR’s website with top ten tips on due diligence.  The second blog was from @CT_charities, which made a good point about checking if induction support is available for new trustees.
And finally, news of our next #trusteehour on Tuesday 12th June 8-9pm – the topic is ‘When is it time for a trustee to step down?’ with thanks to @MairWCVA for the theme idea.

Blog by Julie Hutchison @juliekhutchison
Founding Editor of @InformedTrustee
5 June 2018

Guest blog by @juliekhutchison – reflecting on #trusteehour 5

Our third #trusteehour for 2018 in March sought to tackle the ‘elephant in the room’, which had been suggested as a topic back in 2017: GDPR.

With the implementation date not far off on 25 May 2018, it seemed a good moment to encourage resource-sharing for charity trustees still looking to get their heads around what’s involved.

We had around 2,500 views during this trusteehour, with a number of online references shared.  This link is for the Information Commissioner’s Office FAQs for charities.

There’s also the resources brought together by the Institute of Fundraising.

Information and guidance from NCVO was also shared.

Taking a proactive approach to data and re-engaging with supporters was a theme identified, as an opportunity to use GDPR as a positive step.  @Osborn_Jo mentioned two charities she had seen active in this space:

@talktokieran continued this positive theme:

Thanks also to @TrusteeLeaders @BruceTaitAssoc @CT_charities @SocialChangeAg for joining the conversations.  The impression I was left with however was there’s a bit of this going on:

And finally, news of our next #trusteehour on Thursday 19 April 8-9pm – topic “demystifying charity accounts”!

Blog by Julie Hutchison
Founding Editor of @InformedTrustee

6 April 2018


Reflections on #Trusteehour 6: on the topic of #GDPR – offering help and support to charity trustees, 2 months to go!

Oh #GDPR that elephant in the room … or might that be the elephant constantly pounded thier way towards you?

It seems as if everyone has heard about #GDPR – that “stop spamming me thing” – well it’s not quite that simple.

Actually the level of engagement in this topic was much lower than others and many of the contributions were offered by #GDPR consultancies and service providers. There certainly is alot of support out there and for some – a business opportunity. For others, a real headache.

Julie kicked-off by providing a link to FAQs for charities, that can be accessed here. @TrusteeLeaders provided useful IoF guidelines, here and @CT_ Charities suggested looking a  resource that contains data processing maps and other free tools to download, here.

We had our first tumbleweed moment. Some of you might know that Julie and I, usually meet for a drink to host #trusteehour and we soon realised that our drinks were going down quicker than normal. We are usually huddled around our smartphone, with a little glance at each other when the conversation hots up. Well we kept waiting, until we had a positive tweet from @BruceTaitAssoc.

Here is another positive perspective from @CT_charities, who see it as an opportunity to spring clean the mailing list:

@Osborn_Jo asked whether charities are completing ‘Privacy Impact Assessments’ before any new projects? Perhaps that is something we could look at a later date.

We were delighted when @BruceTaitAssoc provided 3 tips for planning:

Here is a good concluding tweet from @talktokieran below. Many contributors turned it into a positive and remarked  that its manageable if tackled “one piece at a time”.

…. We should embrace it. We will certainly be returning to this topic and hopefully more people will want to participate.

Thoughts on Anderson Strathern training for the #YCBI #GetonBoard (guest blog by Mary Rudaleviciute)

Mary Rudaleviciute attended the Anderson Strathern training held on the 21st May 2018. Here are her thoughts and thanks to Victoria, John and other Associates at the firm.

On Wednesday 21st March, I have had a great chance to attend the ‘Get On Board’ programme training provided by Anderson Strathern – a leading Scottish law firm. Two experts in the Charitable Sector field, namely Victoria Simpson and John Kerr, provided and facilitated the training. Current employees at the Anderson Strathern warmly greeted event attendees and made us feel welcomed. Meeting was focussed towards the legal aspects occurring in the boardroom and then the following presentation provided useful tips on joining a board.

The first part of the session analysed legal aspects of Scottish law, which charities have to adhere and abide. In fact, it proved to be truly useful because if we have a look at the current affairs covered in media, it shows the importance of adhering to the legislation and what happens when it is being breached, however big or small a charity would be.

The second part of the training provided by John Kerr presented first-hand tips on how boardroom meetings are being run and what are the key aspects of preparing for them. The significance of not being afraid speak up and to question the decisions made were on of the key points. As well as that, the emphasis was put on the magnitude of due preparation for the boardroom meetings.

Personally, I have genuinely enjoyed the session and a possibility to discuss case study scenarios with Victoria, John and other staff members of Anderson Strathern. Their insights, critical and on real life experience based approach has pushed our group forward to ask profound questions of what it actually is to be a trustee of the charity; what mentality should a person possess. Meeting these incredibly knowledgeable and skilled professionals who are directly working with charities across Edinburgh and Glasgow has immensely increased my willingness of becoming a charity trustee myself as after this session I am more aware of the charity’s legislation and what is trustee’s role overall.


Mary is a 2nd Year student at Edinburgh Napier University Business School, achieving her Bronze award recently and now working towards Silver. Part of her silver experience will be shadowing and undertaking governance responsibilities with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. 

Get on Board – a seminar summary (guest blog by Julie Hutchison)

This is a guest blog by Julie Hutchison, Charities Specialist, Standard Life Wealth.

On 14th February 2018, RSM hosted an afternoon seminar in their Edinburgh offices, for the first cohort of Get on Board candidates from Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Edinburgh.  This blog summarises the topics covered, as a further reference point for those who attended on the day and a resource to support those who could not join the session.

Victoria Simpson of Anderson Strathern began the seminar by going through the various charity trustee duties which apply in Scotland.  This brings in the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005, and a good summary of what you need to know is contained in OSCR’s Guidance here.

The main duties to keep in mind as a charity trustee are:

* you must act in the best interests of the charity
* you must act with due care and diligence

Victoria spoke about ‘conflict of interest’ situations, and the need for a trustee to declare an interest, and for this to be recorded in the Minutes and a Register of Interests.  The key thing for a trustee is to put the interests of the charity first, and declare their personal interest in the matter concerned.  It may be necessary for a trustee to not participate in part of a meeting where something is being discussed, should that be necessary in order to manage the conflicting interests.

Moving onto the theme of charity accounts, Janet Hamblin of RSM ran through some of the financial points trustees need to be aware of. A Statement of Financial Activity was reviewed, looking at income and expenditure, and drawing out the difference between restricted funds (which must only be spent on certain things) and unrestricted funds (which are available to support general charity expenditure).  Janet emphasised the need for good internal financial controls, and the need to monitor cashflow.

From a charity investment perspective, I then gave an overview of why a charity might take the step of investing, moving from having cash only, to having a mixture of cash and investments.  This tends to happen when a charity has built-up a large sum of cash and is looking for the opportunity to gain better returns over a long term timescale, accepting the ups and downs of the stockmarket in doing so.  Ethical screening was introduced as a topic, to show how some charities avoid investing in certain sectors which conflict with their charitable purposes.  I mentioned #trusteehour as a means for the Get on Board participants to engage in an online community of trustees on twitter, to further develop their awareness and knowledge of charity sector issues.

The final speaker was Elaine Crichton of Inspiring Scotland. Elaine looked at board dynamics and the kinds of behaviours encouraged around the board table.  Key to this was the importance of asking questions as a trustee – and there’s no such thing as a daft question!  Trustees can be positive ambassadors for their charity, and Elaine spoke positively about what younger trustees can bring to the role.  The group dynamic was an important point, as trustees take decisions together on a collective basis.  Being an active listener and respecting other viewpoints was also discussed.  Finally, enthusiasm is valued!

For more information about the Get on Board programme and the competency pathway associated with it, see this blog by Dr Miles Weaver of Edinburgh Napier University.

reflecting on #trusteehour 4: ‘Being a charity trustee: one-off role or lifelong learning experience?’

Wow, the online community of practice for trustees has really taken off and we have had such a great level of interest. It got even more interesting as we took #trusteehour to ‘The Gathering’ in Glasgow. Many people approached @JulieKHutchison and I with positive comments about this monthly online get together. Some of whom joined us for a tweet-up over the bridge, oh and some cake!  This time we focused on ‘Being a charity trustee: one-off role or lifelong learning experience?’ 

and here we are …. with

The first question posed was “If you’ve been/are a charity trustee – do you consciously have a development plan/seek training opportunities?”  started us off with a ‘yes’ noting that personal/softer skills are a great facet of trustee experience; serving as a trustee helps with developing understanding of people in a unique way thanks to differing priorities and motivations. @techmeerkat recognised the benefits for staff but added that skills can be developed that can be bought back to a “day job”. Many of us seem to over-use the language of the “win-win” situation. However, there is a clear one here, however recognition of these benefits have yet to resonate much wider with employers? This is changing!

@irenewarnermack raised the need for ‘core training’ for trustees. This is exactly why @JulieKHutchison, @JacqBrodie and I have developed a ‘competency pathway for trustees’ and we need your help to develop this further and get it adopted. This recognises that many pathways exist to trusteeship and that we all bring different skills and knowledge into the board room. It is important that we use a ‘skills audit’ to understand these dynamics and actively develop the competencies of our board members and where there are gaps to fill them with new appointees.

We then went on to ask about the idea of “lifelong learning” and whether it is something that could be associated with trusteeship? Or whether individual experiences was confined to induction training (if it even happened …)and not much afterwards? This raised a few eyebrows, as we expected, with examples of poor inductions. @lindabarlow101 noted the importance of the simple and small things such as introducing a new trustee at the first board meeting and others introducing themselves going a long way. We cannot assume that everyone knows each other! Thats a start but there is still alot to it than that. I shall add to this the importance of the Chair or another board member building the relationship before the meeting. I don’t know many that like going into a cold room … do you? It’s the price of buying, or better still making a cup of tea.  Alot, of lifelong learning is had over a cup of tea … a apple juice … a dram? Everything is about the relationships that we form, surely not?

@mrsannrowe raised the issue of holding the ability to have difficult conversations in a productive way (and got excited when many chipped in and we were able to witness this in our meet-up). So OK … how do we develop this? How can we nuture an environment that encourages ‘challenge’? and when conflict arises how can we bring this to a resolution. Well .. this is has to be about the alignment of values and ensuring those that are marginalised by the decisions reached are considered.  Moreover, where possible drawn into the decision-making process.  This goes to the heart of one of our re-occuring themes – the importance of diversity of thought in the boardroom. For our boards to get the full benefit of diversity, then we need to value difference, recognise that we each bring different capabilities to a board and the Chair and other board members must not “shut-down” discussion when it does not go thier way. This does not distract from the importance of running a timely and effective board. This raises the importance of the ‘agenda’, the craft of chairpersonship and frankly ‘manners’ in the board room. I said to someone recently when watching PMQs with them about the importance of “talking through the chair” and that the chair plays the  role in bringing in the views of members and encouraging that “challenge”. They laughed and said “don’t be so stupid”.  Constantly recognising that boards should be ‘strategic’ helps. Many recognised the importance of more young trustees on boards – they will challenge the status quo. Do we think enough about the simply things we can do in terms of ensuring meetings are well facilitated? It’s probably one of the main reasons why boards trustees lose interest and may miss the odd meeting? It’s basic stuff but we need to discuss these issues more. There is always room for improvement. Interestingly, this is what delegates of our professional development course (Leadership in Board Governance) asked for more to be included in the learning opportunities and toolbox for trustees that we have developed.

Trusteeship provides opportunities to give back, grow and get ahead. We are constantly developing our competencies and forming new relationships … always. It is without question that it provides long-life learning opportunities. But that also depends on whether we continue to serve in different capacities. However, that does not mean we can stagnate and stick around too long? We need to re-assess our competences, what matters to us and where our passion lie and ensure that we give-back in the best way that we can continue to grow and for some to get ahead. This includes that our contribution tanscends the artificial boundaries that we place in what we call ‘sectors’. We may hold different values at home, in the workplace, where we play, study or pray. Some of these are in conflict and we must be mindful of this as this will impact on how we challenge, develop and bring new skills back into the workplace and community.

Oh … ha ha … and below is how we looked in the  “twenty-tens” with smart phone in hand and heads down. Perhaps we could call this decade “eyes-down” without calling any numbers! It was certainly an experience and nice to catch up and put names to a profile.


The next   will take place on Thur 22 March 8-9pm. Our theme this time will be  and help for trustees – the final countdown! Sharing of resources will be much appreciated. I think this is on the lips or perhaps in the ears of all?

Trustee Opportunities

We are always delighted to highlight any trustee opportunities that came up in conversation during #trusteehour. For instance, @TheJubileeCV7 are looking for a trustee (a Community Centre near Solihull)! @YPICounselling also have a look out for new trustees (a  charity in the Basingstoke & Deane area).


A gender conscious approach to addressing grand challenges in Scotland and beyond …

We often hear the term “a unique Scottish approach” but what does it mean? Well, Scotland is distinctive, does things differently and is bold in its approach. This includes building a fairer and more inclusive economy.  Can we pursue growth and do this in such a way that we all prosper – our natural environment, our people and their communities and the part we play in this? I would argue it’s a “yes but …” and I’ll tell you why I hold this view.

Click here to read more on the Global Goals website.