Charity trustee roles and responsibilities

Charity trustee roles

Your charity’s board of trustees has the collective role of governing the organisation. The board of trustees can nominate a trustee to take the lead on a particular matter, such as the chair and the treasurer. Trustees with special roles are known as officers. However, even when trustees are given special roles, all trustees remain jointly responsible for the charity.

The larger the charity, the more that day-to-day functions will be delegated to employees of the charity. However, in small charities, it is often up to the trustees to both oversee strategy and implement practical actions.

This post explores some of the common charity trustee roles given to individuals on the board and provides guidance on the specific trustee responsibilities often associated with each role. 

Charity trustee role descriptions

  • Chair of trustees

The role of chair is to ensure the board spends its time on the issues that matter.

Area Tasks
  • Maintain an annual agenda of trustee business
  • Arrange dates for trustee meetings
  • Circulate meeting agendas in advance
  • Ensure minutes of board meetings are taken, approved in a subsequent meeting, and stored safely
  • Coordinate the annual review of board composition and allocation of special roles

Further reading

  • Company secretary

The role of the company secretary is to oversee the legal and governance issues associated with the organisation’s corporate and charity structure.



Record keeping

  • Ensure a well organised and secure filing system for all charity documents, accessible by all trustees


  • Maintain an appropriate insurance policy to cover the activities of the charity

Companies House

  • Notify of changes to director details
  • Submit  annual ‘confirmation statement’
  • Submit other necessary filings
Charity Commission
  • Notify of changes to trustee details

  • Submit Annual Return

  • Submit other necessary filings

Bank accounts

  • Maintaining a bank account

  • Adding & removing signatories

Further reading

  • Health, safety & risk management

The role of health, safety & risk management is to anticipate issues that might cause injury or otherwise damage the operations or reputation of the charity and put in place measures to mitigate risk.



Health & safety

  • Maintain and review a Health & Safety policy

  • Keep incident records and report to the Trustees

Risk management

  • Maintain a register of risks and mitigating actions

Data protection

  • Maintain and review a data protection policy

  • Maintain and review a data storage register

Further reading

  • Treasurer

The role of the treasurer is to manage the charity finances.



Financial policies

  • Maintain and review a finance policy that includes safeguards to ensure accountability

  • Monitor compliance with the finance policy

Record keeping

  • Maintain a clear record of all financial transactions


  • Report income and expenditure to the board


  • Liaise with staff teams to suggest an annual budget

  • Coordinate Trustee approval of the budget

Annual accounts

  • Ensure that annual accounts are submitted in a timely and accurate fashion

Further reading

  • Employment

The role of the employment officer is to ensure that the charity looks after its employees well.



Employment contracts

  • Maintain a contract template for use with all employees

  • Ensure all employees have a signed contract

Employment policies

  • Maintain an employee handbook: a reference point for employment policies


  • Ensure that all employees have a line manager

  • Ensure that performance and salary reviews are conducted

Employee issues & grievances

  • Be the escalation contact for any employment policy related issues or serious grievances raised by employees


  • Put in place a system for tracking annual leave

Further reading

  • Fundraising, PR & communications

The role of fundraising, PR & communications is to oversee the externally facing activity of the charity so that it maintains the charity’s reputation and leads to sustainable sources of income.




  • Identify appropriate grants

  • Ensure reporting requirements are met    


  • Arrange fundraising events         

Website & social media

  • Oversee the charity’s online presence

  • Create a communications plan

Further reading

Recruiting the right trustees

A good mix of skills and personalities is the key to an effective trustee board. This guide and the associated example template will help you to find the best trustees for your charity or non-profit board. 

27 September 2018