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Use this page to learn about what your boards legal duties are and the considerations required.
Charity law gives trustees a legal responsibility for a given charity. To support this trustees also have specific duties. These are set out by the Charity Commission and show how trustees should govern their charity and conduct themselves.
The main duty of all charity trustees is to advance the purposes of their charity. This should always be a trustee’s main focus. A charity’s trustees must carry out its charity’s purposes for public benefit. This is called ‘the public benefit requirement'.
Trustees' duties are set out in the Charity Commission guidance on the Essential Trustee (CC3). Reading and understanding this guidance is important for all trustees.
The following six legal duties are taken from the Charity Commission's core guidance: The Essential Trustee: what you need to know, what you need to do. Alongside each duty we’ve set out some questions that trustees can consider to help ensure compliance.
You and your co-trustees must make sure the charity is carrying out the purposes for which it is set up, and no other purpose. This means you should:
Spending charity funds on the wrong purposes is a very serious matter. In some cases trustees may have to reimburse the charity personally.
See section four of The Essential Trustee publication for more information.
2. Comply with your charity’s governing document and the law
You and your co-trustees must:
You should take reasonable steps to find out about legal requirements, for example by reading relevant guidance or taking appropriate advice when you need to.
Questions trustees can ask:
See section five of The Essential Trustee publication for more information.
3. Act in your charity’s best interests
See section six of The Essential Trustee publication for more information.
4. Manage your charity’s resources responsibly
You must act responsibly, reasonably and honestly. This is sometimes called the duty of prudence. Prudence is about exercising sound judgement. You and your co-trustees must:
You and your co-trustees should put appropriate procedures and safeguards in place and take reasonable steps to make sure these are followed. Otherwise you risk making the charity vulnerable to fraud or theft, or other kinds of abuse.
See section seven of The Essential Trustee publication for more information.
5. Act with reasonable care and skill
As someone responsible for governing a charity, you:
See section eight of The Essential Trustee publication for more information.
6. Make sure your charity is accountable
You and your co-trustees must comply with statutory accounting and reporting requirements. You should also:
See section nine of The Essential Trustee publication for more information.
Last reviewed: 29 April 2022Help us improve this content
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