When discussing charity law with clients, particularly in cases where I am advising on the establishment of a new charity, one of the first points explained is the fundamental principle that charity trustees are volunteers who should not draw a benefit from the charity save for in permitted and/or circumstances.
So for example, it is accepted that trustees can recover reasonable expenses incurred in the administration of the charity and it is not uncommon for charities' governing documents to allow for trustees to charge rent on premises let, or reasonable interest on money lent to the charity.
Since the implementation of the Charities Act 2006, there has also been a useful statutory power for trustees to provide goods or services to a charity in exchange for payment provided certain conditions are met.
The analysis discussed in the article below reveals that 18 of the top 100 charities pay their trustees, and that in some cases, those payments are made to trustees for acting as trustees.
In the absence of a specific power to do this in a charity's governing document, the Charity Commission's authorisation is required to do this and a sufficiently compelling argument needs to be constructed in order to explain why it is in the best interests of the charity for one or more of the trustees to be paid.
Interestingly, the Commission has stated that it considers requests from charities to pay trustees sympathetically. For many small to medium sized charities, trustee recruitment is a very challenging issue and one wonders whether more charities will seek to offer payment to trustees, particularly in the current environment where governance is high on the regulator's agenda.
It is highly unlikely that paid charity trustees will become the norm. For this to become the case it would require a monumental shift in one of the defining features of the charity sector. I would however suggest that the Commission needs to be careful in its handling of this particular issue as more and more charities consider this approach.
To be able to pay trustees, charities need to obtain permission from the Charity Commission. It is unknown how many charities overall pay their trustees, though William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, has said the regulator looks sympathetically on requests.