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Delegating decisions to committees and employees

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Use this page to understand what matters are reserved for the board, in what situations you can delegate and to who.

Trustees are required to 'act in person directly' and any decisions affecting the organisation must be made by the trustees acting together.

However, in practice many boards will authorise individual trustees, committees, or staff and volunteers to act on their behalf in specific areas.

Matters reserved only for the board

Some tasks must be considered by the board, and can’t be delegated to staff or committees. The governing document of the charity will usually state the powers and scope of delegation the board has.

The board remains legally responsible for all activities of the charity, including matters delegated to staff and/or volunteers.

Sub-committees

If your governing document gives you the power to do so, you may delegate authority to:

  • a sub-committee of your board for a particular aspect of the charity’s work, or
  • delegate authority to a task group or committee whose members need not necessarily all be trustees.

Any decisions made by such groups remain the responsibility of the board. The terms of reference (a description of what must be dealt with and considered when something is being done) and reporting back procedures of any committees, sub-committees or task groups should be laid down in writing and agreed by the board of trustees.

For many organisations monthly, bimonthly or quarterly meetings of the board of trustees are enough to carry out its work. But either where organisations are small and have limited resources or as organisations become larger, take on more staff and expand into new areas or activities, boards sometimes create sub-committees or working groups. This can allow more time to be spent on certain issues and involve people from outside the trustee board.

Staff and volunteers

If your charity is of a sufficient size, and your governing document gives you the power to do so, you may delegate the day-to-day management of the organisation and all its operations to employed staff and/or volunteers.

If this happens, it should be set down in writing. Decisions made by staff and/or volunteers on important matters must be reported to the board as quickly as possible.

Documenting your delegation

A scheme of delegation is a reference document showing what authority the board has delegated to committees, other volunteers, or to its staff under the powers of its governing document. It will also mention where further details of the delegations are found.

The scheme of delegation empowers and enables timely and effective action by volunteers and staff working in partnership for the benefit of the charity and its beneficiaries.

It also helps to make sure that trustees are able to fulfil their legal and constitutional duties This is because trustees are able to delegate, monitor and if necessary, withdraw the delegated authority if it’s considered in the interests of the charity and its beneficiaries.

Last reviewed: 29 April 2022

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 29 April 2022

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