Sector says No to paid trustees

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Lord Hodgson called for large charities to be able to pay their trustees

67% vote against payment of trustees in online poll

A proposal to allow charities with an income of over £1m to be able to pay their trustees has been rejected by volunteers and charity workers.

Social networking site, which connects people and organisations who want to change their world, polled its members in July with the question 'Do you agree with Lord Hodgson’s recommendation that charities with an income above £1 million should be able to pay their volunteer trustees?'

67% voted against the recommendation with 33% voting in favour. 1,100 members, consisting of volunteers and people that work in the voluntary and community sector, voted in the poll.

Lord Hodgson's proposals were made as part of his wider review of the 2006 Charities Act. He recommended that large charities with an annual income above £1m should be able to pay their Trustees in the same way that companies can pay their board directors. This was based on the assumption that some charities find it difficult to recruit and retain quality trustees with the skills needed to govern large organisations and this will be improved if payment is allowed.

Commenting on the results of the poll, the CEO of Volunteering England, Justin Davis Smith, said,

"The result of the ivo poll reinforces our view that the sector prizes the voluntary nature of trusteeship. As we said when the recommendation was announced, it's a key element of the accountability of a trustee. But it also ensures the ethos of volunteering remains at the heart of charitable organisations."

Rob Jackson, Director of independent volunteering consultancy, Rob Jackson Consulting, agrees, he said,

"This finding echoes the research done by Lord Hodgson's own review and supports the argument that the majority of people are against payment of trustees. Put simply, there is no sound argument that supports the removal of this key principle of charity governance."

The professional body for charity chief executives, ACEVO, who are in favour of Lord Hodgson's recommendation declined to comment on the results of the poll.

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Top answer

Interesting that ACEVO is still calling out for a change despite an overwhelming majority against it:

There is a serious danger that some people who are currently volunteering as competent unpaid trustees would be seduced into taking on paid trusteeships in wealthier charities, thus potentially damaging the smaller and less wealthy ones. Equally, some people would become trustees for the money rather than because they support the work of the charity. The principle of the unpaid trustee should be upheld.

It’s interesting to read the thinking that underpinned Lord Hodgson’s review.

The following are extracts, and provide some helpful context (See page 21 on pdf - link below)
3.5 During the evidence collecting phase of this Review it became clear that views on many key issues (for example whether trustees should be paid) were well thought out, passionately held but diametrically opposed.

3.6 So it was felt it might be helpful if the set of principles…Even these principles collide with one another and at some point priorities have had to be chosen. Nevertheless, the principles and their explanation are intended to give a sense of tone and of direction of travel.

Judgment not process

3.7 A key objective has been to create conditions in which people are encouraged to use their own judgment in the course of their work with charities, whether as a donor, supporter, trustee or worker, and not seek to rely too much on the judgment of others…

3.8 Of course there has to be a regulatory framework (a free-for-all would almost certainly result in irreparable damage to the charity “brand”) but, whenever possible, the Review has sought to provide conditions in which a reliance on trust and on individual common sense is emphasised…

I hope that those who may disagree with some of the specific conclusions of the Review will at least be able to see the overarching framework with which they may find themselves less at odds.

In the light of this it is clear Lord Hodgson expected resistance to the notion of payment for Trustees - what he has tried to do is create a review that encourages a climate of co-responsibility, so that appropriate practice can emerge.

Essentially he's presenting the voluntary sector with the challenge of developing their independence whilst nurturing public trust. Charities that rise to this challenge will be able to develop a culture and supporting systems where payment of trustees is appropriate.

The poll's findings suggest that two-thirds of people in the VCS don't think charities can rise to this challenge….

It could be presented that we have a situation where Lord Hodgson makes an exhortation to the VCS comprising essentially of “Come on folks, you can do it!”’; with the VCS bleating back miserably “No we can’t, we don’t trust ourselves!”