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Kirsty McEwen  

Partner, Private Client

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Higgs' support continues through Trustees Week


Article date:  10/11/2016

Trustees' Week runs from 7-13 November and in the West Midlands trustees represent about 8,000 charities.

Kirsty McEwen is a member of the Private Client team at Higgs & Sons solicitors and has spent many years advising the charities and not for profit / voluntary sector. 

Over the course of Trustees' Week, Kirsty and the team at Higgs will be promoting the event, and engaging with charities and the public to demonstrate the scale of the charity sector within the West Midlands.

For instance:

  • Charities add more value (GVA) to the UK economy than arts or agriculture
  • Helping a stranger is the most popular form of charitable giving globally
  • When it comes to charity support women are more financially generous than men
  • The average trustee in England and Wales is 59 and just under half the UK's trustees are women
  • UK charities have over 10 regulators. Trustees help to steer them through the maze of legislation?

Higgs' Charity & Not for Profit team will also be issuing its Guide to being a Trustee as part of its activities marking Trustee' Week.

Kirsty says: "Trustees Week is an opportunity for charities to remind themselves about good governance, regulatory compliance and charity law in order to continue their excellent work for many years to come. 

"Adhering to some straightforward governance tips when managing a charitable organisation is expected, prudent and will make a significant difference to the charity's impact and effectiveness."


Diligent recruitment of Trustees

Trustees are the guardians of the charity and responsible for overseeing all of its activities. It is essential that existing Trustees recruit responsibly and have appropriate recruitment processes in place, for example carrying out DBS checks where required, or taking references. Another important aspect of recruitment is filling skills gaps: if the Board would benefit from a Trustee with certain skills, then actively recruit for those skills!

Keep clear and detailed records

Clear, accurate and timely minutes of all meetings and decisions made by the Trustees are crucial to ensuring transparency and accountability. Make sure the charity's governing document (that is its constitution, trust deed or articles of association) are up to date and are retained along with any other key documents and in a safe place. And be sure to lodge any documents or records required with the Charity Commission.

Make sure Trustees understand their role

The role of a charity Trustee is one of great responsibility and every Trustee should be inducted on joining the Board to ensure that they understand their role, responsibilities and duties within the charity. Trustees should be provided with all relevant documents pertaining to the charity on joining including copies of the governing documents and recent accounts.

Keep informed

Make sure your Trustees are aware of any changes in charity law and suggest they read the Charity Commission's guidance which is changed and updated regularly. Of equal importance is ensuring Trustees remain informed about what is going on in their own organisation, that they keep the charity's activities under review and that clear reporting lines are in place. Regular training is now expected by the Charity Commission.

Take expert advice when needed!

Some issues are complex and require expert advice. Professional fees are a legitimate expense for a charity to incur and Trustees should take specialist advice to demonstrate that they are acting in the best interests of the charity. Seeking advice at an early stage can ultimately save time and expense. 

Higgs' Charity & Not for Profit team will be issuing its Guide to being a Trustee as part of its activities marking Trustee' Week. To register for your free copy, please email

Kirsty qualified in 2002 and heads Higgs & Sons' Charity and Not for Profit Team. She has acted for many well-known and established charities and the Charity Commission in its regulatory ad investigative work. She regularly writes and speaks on issues affecting the sector.  

Kirsty is a member of The Charity Law Association, The Ecclesiastical Law Society, the STEP Charities UK Special Interest Group, STEP Philanthropy Advisers Special interest Group and STEP.

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