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reflecting on #trusteehour 12 ‘Should charity trustees be paid, or should the role remain voluntary?’

 12 took place in November, with a theme selected by students – ‘Should charity trustees be paid, or should the role remain voluntary?’

 kicked off the hour with a poll on the question posed. 86% of participants agreed that the role should remain voluntary which dominated the conversation with some thoughts on the influence of rumuneration and whether this would attract different voices into the sector. @BCharitable also provided a useful context to the discussion by recognising the professionalism of the sector and that the contribution of trustees should be recognised, encouraged and supported. 

There were a number of threads/points raised:

  • whether rumuneration would attract more younger trustees  ( or even attract trustees with a genuine interest in the cause and desire to drive the organisation forward (
  • (unpaid) board with all the legal duties & risk and (paid) executives without directly the same duties & risk @BCharitable
  • different dynamics between the CEO and the relationships with the rest of the board 

There were many comments that training should be mandatory to improve standards of governance (@Menai_OJ) and removing of barriers such as travel and other expenses being made available without stigma (). @Sus_Hunter20 also noted that timing for meetings is important so that trustees that are in work (comment made in the context of #youngtrustees) don’t lose income or have to take leave to attend. suggested that it is important to promote the positive impact that  involvement can have on an individual as well as an organisation.

Maybe making training mandatory when taking up the role of #trustee would help standards of governance, instead of paying trustees. I suppose the question is, what are we trying to achieve by paying trustees? #trusteehour

— Menai Owen-Jones (@Menai_OJ) October 17, 2018

@maltdub posed a very interesting thought that aroused some debate:

@weavermiles saw the merit in the principle but commented that you need to be paying tax for this model to work. Yet we want more young people, to attract all earning levels and of course, the majority of the trustees are retired.

A key theme that re-occurs each month is the need for training and a good induction:

One way of supporting this is to encourage more organisations to have a policy on volunteering and talking up #SkilledVolunteering. Trusteeship being the ultimate of skilled volunteering?  supported this by suggesting that corporates can do more to allow time to support volunteering. Effectively, the worker is paid but can gain new skills and experiences too in the form of a trusteeship. 

Another suggestion focused around a unitary board model, like the ones seen in the corporate world. This would mean the trustees would act in the same way as the non-executive directors.

Let’s finish on a positive note: #reachout. @YLSSarahRobbo did and she was pleasantly surprised with the responses that she received:

Next on Tue 13th Nov 7-8pm is a special collaboration with looking at what trustees need to know and do about Safeguarding.

Guest blog by @2050ClimateGrp: After #YoYP #TrusteeHour, how can we increase youth participation in board governance?

With over 10,000 views during the hour and the following day, September’s #trusteehour was a collaboration with 2050 Climate Group, a charity whose board members are all under the age of 35. They shaped the #trusteehour conversations around young trustees and how to encourage more boards to consider appointing a young trustee.  This blog is a guest contribution by Catriona Patterson (Chair of 2050 Climate Group), with thanks also to the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation for hosting us.

2050 Climate Group is a youth-led charity which seeks to engage, educate and empower Scotland’s young people to take action on climate change. We have 15 board members, over 40 operational volunteers, 2 paid interns and 1 member of staff, all of whom are young people: everyone in our organisation is aged between 18 and 35 years.

We explicitly work to empower young people to take leadership roles, so recruiting, facilitating and celebrating young board members is both a demonstration of our ethos and impact, as well as the future we want to see. I became a trustee at the age of 25, and being a young person and a trustee gives me the opportunity to advocate for an organisation I’m extremely passionate about, whilst simultaneously enabling me to develop strategic planning and partnership skills – in turn compounding how effective I can be in my ‘day job’ (also in the third sector) and as a member of society.

Pulling from our #TrusteeHour discussion, here are a few summary thoughts and tips for those interested in young trusteeship, considering recruiting young trustees, or sceptical about the whole concept!

Boards have a responsibility to be diverse, and a range of ages and experiences is essential.

Diversity of participation at board level perforates throughout an organisation: increasing the acknowledgement and inclusion of key stakeholders often unheard in strategic discussions. This is particularly pertinent when an organisation works with or for young people, or seeks to have an impact on our shared future: inter- and intra- generational stakeholders must be included in the decision making process.

Young people can be perceived as having less to offer than older and more professionally experienced trustees, but this isn’t the case.

Consider the new ideas, skills and networks that a young trustee can bring to a board – including their enthusiasm, energy and a new perspective. They might not have 25+ years of experience in a particular profession, but they are able to bring authentic knowledge of youth interests and behaviours that can benefit an organisation. It’s not just about understanding social media (although they may have suggestions as to how to increase your reach with such communication tools): they also have a major motivation to be thinking on a long-term strategic timescale.

The barriers to young people becoming trustees are surmountable.

Sometimes early-career professionals do not have the flexibility of schedule that retired or professionally established trustees have. Consider changing the time of your board meetings, providing letters of support to trustees workplaces, and support their attendance at meetings though reimbursing travel or childcare expenses.

Being a trustee is an incredible personal and professional development opportunity for any young person

If we are to equip our charities with well-informed, skilled and experienced trustees, we must value that it may require some individual development – potentially initiated or supported by existing trustees, or through sector-support organisations, recommended reading, etc. Developing these skills as part of a board also spreads this knowledge across society – building a generation of knowledgeable and capable young people.

We need to rethink how we consider leadership

Different leadership styles and skills bring different opportunities and strategic direction to an organisation. But often leadership is represented by the idea of a single individual taking charge and making decisions, yet empowering young people to lead can bring new ways of working, distributed leadership and more democratic processes to an organisation.

Scotland’s Year of Young People is only a starting point for youth engagement in charity governance

In 2018, ‘young people’ is a hot topic, with the national themed year focused on celebrating Scotland’s youth. Many events and initiatives have raised the profile of youth participation, and many organisations have hosted youth engagement projects (such as shadowing, hosting, internships) to increase inclusion and participation. However, there is a risk that with the end of the themed year, comes the end of this enthusiasm for working with young people.  Instead, we should see this year as ‘proof of concept’: a demonstration of the benefits of highlighting youth contributions, and a starting point for involvement going forward.

Young Trustee opportunities are out there: including with 2050 Climate Group!

The Charity Commission in England and Wales research notes that 71% of trustees are recruited through an informal process, which could be omitting young people from the recruitment pool. Advertising openly and widely is key to develop the internal and external message that young people are welcome and desired in board governance. The International Voluntary Service (IVS) is aiming to get organisations to commit to offering young trusteeships, Changing the Chemistry works year-round to increase board diversity, and organisations like the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) recently advertised for a youth board member.

At 2050 Climate Group, we are also actively recruiting for three new trustees (18-35 years) in the areas of Law, Fundraising and Leadership. Know any brilliant young people who should join our board? Let them know! Details and application are available on and we’re always welcome to have informal conversations with interested individuals considering applying.

More reading:


Guest blog by @2050ClimateGrp

Guest blog by @Juliekhutchison – reflecting on #trusteehour 10 “how a charity should approach a capital build project”

For our tenth #trusteehour, we took part in a collaboration with The Yard, a charity with its HQ in Edinburgh which offers a haven of adventure play for disabled children and their families.  With the prospect on the horizon of a capital build project to create another adventure play centre, we were keen to tap into insight from #trusteehour followers on how other charities had approached various aspects, including planning, fundraising and the governance involved.

During the hour, there were over 4,000 views and lots of tips shared – here’s a top 10.  We’d like to particularly thank the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice CEO Rhona Baillie for sharing their recent experience in fundraising for, and building, their new hospice; and Mark McGeachie from Youth Scotland, for sharing their experience of renovating their HQ base.

  • Consider your local geography – certain approaches may have worked well elsewhere, but they need translated and adapted to be successful in your area.

2. Choose your contractors carefully:

3. Future-proofing: @_mark_mcg made the point that your building needs to plan for future requirements, not just those of today

4. Have a contingency budget – expect the unexpected when it comes to costs.

5. Have you fully explored all the options around your building?

6. When it comes to tax and planning ahead, VAT is an important area to consider in building projects – speak to experts, as thousands of pounds may be at stake:

7. Looking at fundraising and how to identify potential major donors:

8. The approach to contracts and the design aspects generated a lot of comment. A ‘design and build’ approach seemed to be popular:

9.  Some thoughts on what value for money means:

10. Finally, the importance of communications and stakeholder engagement:

We wish The Yard all the best in their future plans as they expand their operations to a new area, offering more families access to the fantastic adventure opportunities which enable children with additional needs to play.

Blog by Julie Hutchison

Founding Editor @InformedTrustee

24 September



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.