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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Is it all getting too much for trustees?

This opinion piece is over 5 years old

Susan Smith discusses TFN's report into trustee experiences as well as other governance themed content in November's TFN magazine

It’s not the sexiest of awareness weeks, but Trustees Week is one that has an impact on every charity in Scotland. It falls this month, 12-16 November, and so at TFN we thought we’d take the opportunity to find out what trustees think about their role.

We were really pleased at the high levels of confidence expressed by trustees in our survey. Most feel they are up to the job – only 11% said they weren’t confident in their ability to fulfil their role. Their faith wavers a little when they look around the board room at everyone else, but still 76% of people are confident the whole board is up to the job.

Phew! That’s good news. However, what is a little more concerning is that 78% of respondents think their role is getting harder.

Robert Armour spoke in detail to some of the people who responded to our survey to find out what it was really like for them, what motivates them and where they feel they need more support.

While I appreciate the temptation to flick ahead to our Good Christmas Gifts list, his article really is essential reading for charity staff and trustees looking to improve their board experience. A disappointing 40% of trustees said they’d not had an induction, for example. Others highlighted the need for more training.

A tendency to over-rely on staff and trust their information a little too much was a common theme and one that featured heavily in the One Plus case study – an organisation that went wrong with devastating consequences for staff and service users. It is a lesson about the importance of encouraging and boosting confidence in board members.

The trustee theme continues in November's magazine with an interview with Rory Mair, the chair of Citizens Advice Scotland – an organisation whose governance problems have been thoroughly aired over the last few years. He is doing his best to bring discipline and a new perspectives to that organisation, while keeping a clear eye on the needs of the thousands of Scots who are dependent on advice from their local CAB. He doesn’t mince his words in response to recent criticism of the organisation accepting DWP funding to help mop up the Universal Credit mess.

On a lighter note, Gareth Jones spoke to BBC sports presenter Jill Douglas about being a trustee for My Name’5 Doddie Foundation – one of the huge fundraising success stories of the last year. She talked about the pros and cons of setting up a charity in the name of a celebrity, and the determination of Doddie Weir to create something positive from his devastating motor neurone disease diagnosis.

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisation chief executive Anna Fowlie also writes in TFN this month about her first six months in the job and some upcoming changes at the umbrella body, which she hopes will enable it to support, promote and develop Scotland’s third sector.

And after all of this governance content, feel free to take a break with our Good Gift list, which should give you loads of ideas to create your ethical Christmas list.

TFN November magazine content will appear online throughout November. If you are an SCVO member or TFN subscriber, you can read this content for free on our website. Visit for more information on how to subscribe.