Charity Governance

Charity trustee eligibility

Of interest to those involved in charity governance.


There are over 167,000 registered main charities in England and Wales. Charities can be structured in a number of ways, but for an organisation to be a charity it must have wholly and exclusively charitable purposes and provide public benefit. Each charity requires a body of trustees to lead and govern the organisation. The Charities Act 2011 defines trustees as ‘…the persons having the general control and management of the administration of a charity’ (s.177).

Purpose of this guidance

Charity trustees are central to the success of a charitable organisation, being responsible for its overall direction, strategy and vision. It is therefore imperative that trustees are effective both individually and collectively if they are to have a positive impact on the charity and enable the organisation to fulfil its charitable objects. Inherent in building and maintaining an effective board of trustees is having robust systems for their recruitment, appointment and induction, backed up by ongoing support and development.

It is essential that the right people are recruited to the board, not just in terms of skills, attributes and competences, but also in ensuring an individual meets the legal and constitutional eligibility criteria. Appointing a trustee who is not eligible can have serious consequences for the individual, the board and the charity.

This document includes:

  • Benefits of being a trustee     

  • Constitutional considerations    

  • Legal considerations              

  • Charity Commission waivers       

  • Acting while disqualified          

  • Due diligence                              

  • Senior manager implications          

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