12 Questions Trustees Should Ask Themselves

February 16, 2016

Most people who become trustees of a charity do so because they have a passion for what the charity is there for; to use a hackneyed phrase, they “want to give something back”.  What some perhaps do not realise fully is the responsibility they have for the charity’s finances and its fundraising, and moreover what that responsibility actually means.  The charity commission publishes very clear guidance on trustee responsibilities and has drafted updates on its guide to fundraising.  What is also needed is further financial training for trustees as to not only what their responsibilities are, but how they might actually carry out those responsibilities.  Just as a director of a company cannot rely on the Financial Director to “look after the numbers”, trustees must ensure that they understand the charity’s financial position and the source of funding and feel able to question others, particularly management, about the same.

Graham-Pelton Consulting Managing Director Susie Hills recently posted ‘Six Questions Trustees Should Ask Their Fundraisers’. Following on from that, here are 12 more questions that trustees should ask themselves:

  1. Do I receive regular, prompt, and clear financial information? Do I understand it?
  2. Do I know that the charity commission has recently published new guidance on reserves policies for charities? Does the charity have a reserves policy and do I know what it is?
  3. If the charity’s income were to suddenly cease overnight, do I know how many months it could continue to support current commitments to beneficiaries, staff, and suppliers?
  4. Do I understand why some of the charity’s funds are restricted and what that means in practice?
  5. Does the charity have an audit committee? Do I know what it does?
  6. Does the charity carry out a thorough review of risks on a regular basis?
  7. Does that review assess the likelihood and impact of those risks? Are there mitigations in place to prevent or reduce the impact of those risks?
  8. Am I provided with full information on donors when I ask for it?
  9. Does the charity have clear policies on donors and fundraising?
  10. Am I aware that there are legal implications which need to be considered when engaging with donors, e.g. money laundering?
  11. Are any conditions attached to donations fully understood?
  12. Does the charity have an investment policy, and does that adhere to the charity’s ethical policy?

-Melvyn Keen, Associate

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