Charity Governance

Lead charity trustees in England and Wales

Of interest to those involved in charity governance.


The charity sector has seen increasing calls for individual trustees on boards to be appointed to lead on specific aspects of a charity’s activities in response to adverse reports – whether it be safeguarding, staff welfare, digital or fundraising. The concept of a ‘lead’ or ’link’ is not new, as it could, for example, be argued that the honorary position of treasurer makes that person the lead trustee on finance. 

Purpose of this guidance

The trend for individual board members to take particular interest in specific areas of an organisation’s activities is familiar in other sectors: schools have link governors on matters such as special educational needs, NHS trusts may use non-executive directors to gain specific insights into particular wards or medical specialisations, foundation trusts have lead governors established in legislation, and corporate entities which have non-executive committees leading on audit, nomination and remuneration for some years have, more recently, been encouraged to appoint a lead director to engage with staff and other stakeholders. Lead trustees are generally asked to be the formal link between the board and a particular member or members of the senior management team or external oversight body (such as a regulator or funder). These ‘lead’ responsibilities would be in addition to the legal duties placed on all trustees.

This document includes:

  • Collective responsibility         
  • Lead trustee – considerations     
  • Specimen lead trustee role description       

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