As a registered charity we are required to appoint a board of trustees who have independent control over, and legal responsibility for, our management and administration.
Trustees play a very important voluntary role in a sector that contributes significantly to the UK. They are the ‘guardians of purpose’, making sure that all decisions that are made are for the good of the charity and its objectives, and to put the needs of the beneficiaries first. The Charity Commission highlights 6 main duties of “The Essential Trustee” as:
- Ensure your charity is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit
- Comply with your charity’s governing document and the law
- Act in your Charity’s best interests
- Ensure your charity is accountable
- Manage your charities resources responsibly
- Act with reasonable care and skill
The role of the Engineers Without Borders UK Board of Trustees is to govern the organisation and provide overall policy direction to achieve its aims in the most efficient and effective manner. The trustees are ultimately responsible under the Articles of Association for the management and administration of the charity. However, the Charity Commission recognises that, because of the scale of work undertaken by a charity such as Engineers Without Borders UK, decision-making on management is delegated to the Chief Executive and through them to the staff.
Trustees remain responsible for ensuring that the organisation has a clear shared vision and aims, that effective strategies are in place to achieve this and that the Chief Executive is carrying out the tasks which have been delegated to them efficiently.
How many trustees and why?
At Engineers Without Borders UK, the maximum number of trustees is eight. Of these, six are appointed by the trustees and two are elected from, and by, the membership. Trustees are appointed for a three-year term and are eligible to serve two consecutive terms. An additional two non-voting members can be co-opted to the board for advice on specific matters.
The Articles of Association also allows for any person to be appointed as Secretary and perform the duties of the secretary of the charity. During the board meeting on 25 September 2016, it was agreed that the Chief Executive take up this role in an ex-officio capacity, and this remains the case currently.
Skills of our trustees
It is critical to ensure that the combined trusteeship brings all the necessary areas of expertise to govern the charity’s activities, as well as demonstrating a commitment to the objectives of Engineers Without Borders UK. In 2016 the board decided that the matrix reproduced below represents the blend of skills and attributes required across the Trustees of Engineers Without Borders UK. When selecting trustees, reference should be made to this matrix and efforts made to recruit trustees who bring skills and experience that fill any current gaps.
In addition to the skills matrix above, it is important for Engineers Without Borders UK to strive for a diversity of age, gender and expertise to ensure we are representing and hearing from varied perspectives. To achieve this we are currently reviewing our Diversity and Inclusion policy to encourage more representation across the organisation.
However, above all, it is vital that trustees are committed to the vision and objectives of Engineers Without Borders UK and are able to commit to the governance role as laid out in the code of conduct.
Nominations and voting for member-elected trustees
We have two positions on the Board to be elected through a member vote to ensure we have a representative membership voice in the governance of our organisation. This is a valuable opportunity for someone keen to get involved in charity governance and support Engineers Without Borders UK to deliver on its mission to put global responsibility at the heart of engineering.
At our AGM on 25 November 2020, changes to our Memorandum and Articles of Association to update the nomination process for our member-elected trustees were approved by membership vote. This means that any member of Engineers Without Borders UK wishing to stand as a candidate for the role of member-elected trustee requires two member signatories, instead of four.
The membership vote also approved removing the option for candidates to be proposed by another member. We hope this will give more autonomy to prospective candidates, and also ensure they are fully committed to standing for the vote.