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  • Elliot

Training for Trustees. What are you missing out on?

When I read a set of charity accounts, believe it or not I read the Trustees' report first and don't just look at the figures. A lot of the time (but not always), there will be a small paragraph telling me that the trustees have either undergone some formal training or, some sort of induction process which includes giving them some documentation to read and a briefing from the Chair or CEO.

Am I being a cynic when I say that I doubt it's effectiveness? Not when one of the first duties of a trustee is to ensure that proper accounts are prepared and on a timely basis. The number of substantial charities (and by that I mean those who are required to have an independent examination or audit) that file the accounts late or file accounts just before the filing deadline at the Charity Commission would shock you as would the standard of the information that is supplied. Despite extra time granted by the Charity Commission due to Covid, still many sets of accounts were either late or inadequate and that is without including those which were filed in the last possible month.

If that is a sample of the standard of training that trustees get, then they are certainly not taking their responsibilities seriously. Remember that trustees are liable for charity failings notwithstanding limited liability. Please remember it is a criminal offence not to provide annual documents when required by the Charity Commission. So, ask yourself this question; if I can't get the simple thing of filing accounts right, what else is wrong and thus, is my training adequate?

A Charity under the SORP has many responsibilities. Included within that is a requirement that the trustees report must provide the user with an understanding of (amongst other things) “the policies and procedures for the induction and training of trustees”

Charity SORPS have been with us for many years and disclosure about training of trustees have been part of the process for most of that time. Yet, in a recent sample of charity accounts with income in the range of £100k to £5m. of the 30 sets of accounts looked at, 10 made no reference to induction or training at all, 12 set out the induction process but training was not mentioned and only 8 referenced both. Of those 8, 1 was providing it by the mentoring of new trustees by long serving ones, 3 were sourcing it externally by sending trustees on external courses and only 4 were providing in-house training.

Of those who did induction only, most saw fit not to provide any Charity Commission guidance as part of the induction pack but relied only on the latest accounts, the constitution and observing the activity of the organisation and a couple of trustee meetings to get a feel of what the job was. You wouldn’t leave your staff members without adequate training so why apparently do lots of charities ignore the needs of their trustees?

Training costs are comparatively small in comparison with a charity’s overall costs but can save a lot of heartache. All courses can be tailored to your charity and in the case of basic courses, they can be tagged on to a trustee meeting either in person or on line. In the case of more advanced training, these can be done either as part of a trustees away day or combined with members of the Senior Leadership Team’s training courses.

If you would like to talk over your charity’s training needs why not email us at or telephone Elliot Harris on 07896 894711 or Ian Crocombe at 07990 698948 for more details.

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