Who sits on the typical trustee board?

13 Nov 2017 Voices

Today's landmark report on trusteeship, published by the Charity Commission, shows that the typical trustee is likely to be white, male, and over 60.

We look at the key statistics from new report, published today and called Taken on Trust: The Awareness and Effectiveness of Charity Trustees in England and Wales.

The report is taken from a survey sample of 19,064 trustees through a national survey in January 2017. Around 3,500 trustees responded to the survey.

Average age

The average age of a trustee was 61. This is four years older than the previous estimate of 57.

The report notes that “while it is encouraging that many people beyond normal retirement age are contributing their time as trustees, it is perhaps a little concerning that over 8,000 boards have an average age of over 75 years”.


The report found that 64 per cent of all trustees were male. This figure rose on boards of larger charities. In charities with incomes over £5m, 72 per cent of trustees were male.

In addition, 71 per cent of chairs and 68 per cent of treasurers were men.


The report finds that 92 per cent of board members were white, compared with 86 per cent of the UK population as a whole. However when adjusted against age, boards are found to be representative. People over the age of 60 are more likely to be white than the population as a whole.

Income and employment

The survey found that 75 per cent of trustees have household incomes above the national median. It also found that 30 per cent of trustees hold postgraduate qualifications, while 60 per cent have a professional qualification of some sort.

51 per cent of trustee respondents said they were retired, compared with 44 per cent of those who said they were either in full or part-time employment.

Board size

The typical size of a trustee board is between three and five trustees for smaller charities and between six and ten for larger charities. The overall average size of a charitable trustee board in the UK was 5.9 trustees.

Term of office

There was a “near even split” between those boards promoting fixed terms of office for trustees and those without. The report found 49 per cent of boards had a fixed term of office for trustees, while 47 per cent did not.

In terms of the length of fixed terms, 3 years was found to be the most frequently reported, with 46 per cent of respondents reporting that term of office. This was compared to 18 per cent who reported just a single year term of office, and some three per cent which reported single terms of 6 years.

Nature of recruitment

The majority of trustee respondents said they had been recruited to a charity board informally, with over 70 per cent being asked to become a trustee directly by either the chair or a fellow board member. Only 5 per cent of trustees responded to a job advert.

Time spent

The average trustee spends 4.88 hours on their trustee duties, in addition to other services they may carry out for the charity.

The median time was much lower - between one and four hours a week.

Service use

The report also found that “a large minority” of trustee respondents, “just under 50 per cent”, said they had been, or still are, users of the services provided by their charity. 

This is perhaps less surprising than it first seems when considered that many, many charities are small organisations which provide informal networks, such as village halls, women's institutes and friends of the local parish church.

Civil Society News publishes a bi-monthly magazine for trustees, Governance & Leadership, as well as offering a range of trustee training and an annual conference.

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