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CHARITY WATCH Trustee Briefing

Am I eligible to become a trustee?

The short answer

Most people over 18 years of age can become trustees, but a few are not eligible.

People under 18 can be trustees of an incorporated charity, but cannot be trustees of an unincorporated charity.

In more detail

Ineligible people:
Those who have already been disqualified as company directors and those who have been convicted of an offence involving dishonesty or deception are some of the people who cannot usually become trustees. In some cases, people who receive benefits from the charity may also be ineligible.

Who appoints new trustees?

The short answer

Usually, the charity’s governing document sets out how trustees are to be appointed – this varies according to the particular charity. In other cases the position can be more complicated, and the trustees may need to contact the Charity Commission to help make a new appointment. All trustees, however appointed, must act in the charity’s interests, and must not represent the interests of any outside organisation or their own personal interests.

In more detail

Appointment methods:
In many cases the charity’s governing document says how trustees are to be appointed. It may say that some people are to be trustees because of an office which they hold (known as ex officio trustees); common examples are the mayor of a town or the head teacher of a school. Sometimes a named person or organisation is given the right to appoint new trustees. For an organisation with a wider membership, the members usually appoint some or all of the trustees in an annual election.

Existing trustees:
If the governing document does not say anything about another method of appointment, then the existing trustees of an unincorporated charity may appoint new trustees. You must follow the procedure set out in the governing document where possible.

If there are problems:

If it is not possible to appoint new trustees, for example because there is no person with the right to appoint them, the charity must tell us. We have the power to appoint new trustees in those circumstances.

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