GOVERNING CHARITABLE TRUSTS AND CHARITABLE SOCIETIES

Background This article has been prepared to help trustees of a charitable trust or committee members of a charitable society governing the charity more readily to understand the obligations they assume when appointed or elected. Because committee members of a charitable society are effectively “trustees” of the society they are referred to as “trustees” in the balance of this article. A trustee’s first obligation is to become familiar with: The trust instrument establishing the charity (such as the trust deed, or will, or the rules of the charitable society), generally referred to in these Notes as the charity’s constitution, which governs what can and cannot be done, especially the charity’s purposes, The charity’s property and records, Any limitations to which the charity is subject, The charity’s strategic plan and policies (which must always be consistent with the charity’s purposes), and then Never to forget the purposes and terms of the trust. It has been said that too many trustees accept appointment without fully understanding that being a trustee involves serious and onerous duties and a commitment of potentially significant time. Being a trustee may be a complex burden, involving not only an understanding of the trust but also being acquainted with relevant legal rules and principles. This article may help to redress those deficiencies, but it is of limited value for two reasons. First, this article is not specific to the circumstances of any particular charity and, second, the detail which may be found in text books cannot be included in such a relatively short article (rather more detailed notes are available to charities which are clients of Bannister...