Almshouse charities are governed and administered by trustees in accordance with Schemes issued by the Charity Commission. A special feature of almshouse charities is that trustees are recruited locally, and operate on a pro bono basis. Many will have grown up in the same town or village as the residents, and this creates a special bond between them. Almshouse trustees must act in accordance with Charity Law and the Trustee Act 2000 to preserve and strengthen their charity for the benefit of residents now and in the future.
Trustees are responsible for the proper management of the almshouse charity. They have to conform with the Charity’s Governing Document or Scheme. The Objects of the charity define the beneficiary group that Trustees are permitted to appoint as residents. The Governing Document will also define how many trustees the charity has, the permitted term of office and whether they are allowed to serve more than one term.
Trustees have overall control of a charity and are responsible for making sure it’s doing what it was set up to do. They lead the charity and decide how it is run. Being a trustee means making decisions that will impact on people’s lives. Trustees make a difference to the local community and to society as a whole.
Some trustees have special roles, such as the chair and the treasurer. They are known as officers. Officers don’t automatically have any extra powers or legal duties than the other trustees, but may carry out specific roles or have specific responsibilities delegated to them. All trustees remain jointly responsible for the charity. For example, all trustees share responsibility for finances (not just the treasurer).
Trusteeship can be rewarding for many reasons - from a sense of making a difference to the charitable cause, to new experiences and relationships. It can also be demanding of time, skills, knowledge and abilities. Charity trustees make decisions about their charity together, working as a team. Decisions don’t usually need to be unanimous as long as the majority of trustees agree.
For anyone considering becoming a charity trustee, some essential reading can be found at: