Every penny paid to a trustee is one less spent on the frontline

Every penny paid to a trustee is one less spent on the frontline

Reaction to the review of the Charities Act by Lord Hodgson, published on Monday, has focused on the recommendation that large charities should be able to pay their trustees without the agreement of the Charity Commission, as is currently the case.

The Chief Executives of seven major voluntary sector bodies, including NCVO and IoF, have written an open letter to Nick Hurd strongly opposing the recommendation.

Payment of those who volunteer their time to an organisation they feel passionate about is an uncomfortable issue. Lord Hodgson himself acknowledges there is little evidence to suggest that paying trustees helps with recruitment or retention so it’s difficult to understand why larger charities should be given the option to do so.

Larger charities are those with an annual income of £1 million or more. There is the argument that the weight of responsibility for trustees is greater in managing large sums of money. But does that mean a greater commitment from the board, more demands on their time and a greater connection with beneficiaries?

People need to be reassured that charities are spending their money appropriately and trustees have a key role to play in making sure that’s the case. But their duties, often for smaller organisations, can be far greater in number and can have a huge impact on both the income a charity generates and the benefit to members.

For example, as a trustee of a regional charity raising half a million pounds each year you may be asked to help out at a monthly event like a members’ café, asked for your expertise on a marketing issue, be expected to staff information stands, shake a bucket at fundraising events, do presentations to schools and speak at major donors’ events. This is all on top of your regulatory duties as a trustee.

People at every level should feel valued and their skill and expertise should be rewarded, but this needn’t be financially. Ultimately, at a time when charitable giving is going down, every penny paid to a trustee is one less spent on frontline services and that’s not good for public confidence in the sector.

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