Charity: guidance for trustees

Charity trustees, sometimes referred to as Directors, are responsible for the charity’s governance, strategy, management and overall administration.

The board of trustees has overall control of the charity and are primarily responsible for all of the charities activities and the services it delivers to the service users and the outcomes it

Charity Trustees must abide by the law which is detailed within the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005. The Office for the Charity Regulator in Scotland (OSCR) is responsible for ensuring that all charities comply with the law and OSCR has published useful guidance on the role of trustees and complying with the Act which be found on their website.

Whether you are new to the role of Trustee, or considering becoming a Trustee or if you simply need a refresher on what the duties of a trustee are the following guidance published by OSCR is a really useful aide memoir, click here.

As well complying with the Act and acting in the interests of the charity, with due care and diligence, and running the charity in a manner which is consistent with the charities purpose, Trustees must do what’s best for the charity. Putting the charity’s needs before their own and before any other organisation they represent or are involved with.

Trustee briefings & refresher sessions

Martin Aitken & Co’s charity advisers host Trustee Guidance and Refresher sessions throughout the year which you may find a useful addition to the guidance published by OSCR. If you would like to find out more about these sessions and when the next one is due to take place, send us an email and we’ll get in touch with you.

As a number of our charity advisers sit on both sides of the fence – charity auditor and serving on charity boards as trustees, they are uniquely positioned to see both the strategic, operational financial and management issues from both sides and our guidance to Trustees at these sessions has been shaped accordingly.

What will the session cover? The full range of duties and responsibilities, with specific emphasis on accounting, tax, governance and managing risk and the additional duties – as below – which must be performed.

Trustees must perform a range of additional duties, including:

Financial record keeping and reporting - Section 44 of the 2005 Act states that charities jigsaw piecesmust:

  • keep proper accounting records which must be retained for a minimum of 6 years.
  • prepare a statement of account, including a report on the charity’s activities, at the end of each financial year
  • have the statement of account independently examined or audited
  • send a copy of the accounts, along with the annual return, to OSCR.


Reporting to OSCR.  Trustees must comply with their statutory duties and provide OSCR with information, including:

  • Annual monitoring – OSCR will check every set of accounts submitted to them before they are added to the charity register. If there are omissions or discrepencies, OSCR may reject your submission and ask you to re-submit. They will also give you recommendations for improvement for the following years’
  • Charity Accounting – all monies coming in and going out of the charity must be properly accounted for by law. You should familarise yourself with the style and format of accounts and how they should be prepared as set out by the Scottish Government.
  • Making changes to the charity – if you decide to change for instance the charity’s name, its constitution or you want to update your charity’s details on the register or if you are moving your principle office, or you are taking actions to merger, wind up or dissolve te charity, OSCR requires you to submit your proposed changes to them c3 months in advance. If the charity faces a winding-up or administration order or a receiver is to be appointed, OSCR requires you to notify them within 1 month.