Development Trusts are incorporated as companies limited by guarantee, and so the governing body is a Board of directors. If the Trust is registered as a charity, the Board members will also be trustees. In either instance they are responsible for the direction of the Trust.
The Board should not see themselves simply as an advisory group for the staff, nor as just representing the interests of other organisations to which they may belong. They should be in charge of policy, and make key decisions in the development and running of the Trust.
Provided they are not negligent, their personal liability is limited to the extent of their guarantee (usually £1).
Since Development Trusts are action-oriented organisations where swift decision-making is important, there is a strong case for keeping the Board relatively small - preferably not more than 12 people. The way the Board is appointed will be specified in the Trust's memorandum and articles: see the Constitution sheet. They may be appointed by bodies sponsoring the Trust and/or elected by the Trust's membership. The Board should contain a mix of interests, preferably from public and private sectors and and the residential community. Local councils generally must limit their representation to 20 per cent or less if they are to avoid financial penalties under local government legislation. The aim should be to have only two layers of control in the Trust - the Board and the staff. Board members should not derive any direct financial benefit from their position, and staff should not be members of the Board. Board make the policy, staff carry it out. Board members should be chosen for the benefits they can bring to the Trust in terms of their skills, standing in the community and contacts. The role of chairperson is particularly important. As well as presiding over Board meetings, he or she will be the day-to-day link between the Board and executive director.
The Board may set up sub-committees and co-opt people for their specific expertise, but the Board must remain responsible for the actions of these sub-committees. Any sub-committee should be given clear instructions on their purpose, how they should operate, the extent of their decision making powers, how often they should meet, and how they should report back to the Board.
One of the top priorities for the Board should be developing and making policy decisions about the direction of the Trust. They should be responsible, with the executive director, for developing and reviewing the business plan which prioritises the work of the Trust.
The Board should plan budgets with the executive director, make the major spending decisions, and receive regular financial reports. They should know what fundraising activities the staff are engaged in, and may themselves assist through their personal contacts. The Board may set up a finance sub-committee to undertake detailed work and make recommendations to the Board.
Even when the Trust has full time staff to run the Trust on a day-to-day basis, the Board are responsible for managing the executive director and for recruitment decisions.
The Board will have a key role to play in making and maintaining the link between the Trust and the many interest groups it must serve. To this end they may be involved, with staff, in meetings and other events - particularly where these relate to their own spheres of interest.
Board members are far more likely to maintain their interest in the Trust if they have some direct involvement on a personal basis in one or more of the Trust's projects. This may be done by different members taking an interest in different projects, by setting up one or more projects sub-committees and by Board members with specific skills contributing these to the staff team responsible.
In recruiting a Board for the Trust, consider
© David Wilcox firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel +44 (0)1273 677377. Fax: +44 (0)1273 677379. These information sheets may be freely distributed with this attribution, but not republished as a whole. Partnerships Online : The Guide to Development Trusts and Partnerships: other sheets