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Delegation to committees and staff

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Trustee board often delegate day to day matters to other people and groups within the organisation.

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, most but the very smallest organisations will delegate day to day matters to:

  • individual trustees – for example delegating the role of financial oversight to the treasurer
  • sub-committees – for example to investigate a particular issue in more detail
  • staff or volunteers – the day to day running of the organisation

What matters should be reserved for the trustee board?

It is recommended that some tasks should not be delegated from the trustee board but instead be the subject of a board decision. ICSA: The Chartered Governance Institute has produced a specimen list of such items, Matters Reserved for the Board of Trustees (PDF, 350KB, member-only), aimed at charities with a senior management team. The governing document of the charity will usually determine the powers and scope of delegation the board has.


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

However, any decisions made by such groups remain the responsibility of the whole board of trustees. The terms of reference 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 sufficient to carry out its work. But as organisations become larger, take on more staff and expand into new areas or activities, boards sometimes establish sub-committees or working groups which can allow more time to be spent on certain issues and involve people from outside the trustee board.

Staff or 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. The scope of delegated authority should be set down in writing, and decisions made by staff and/or volunteers on important matters must be reported to the board of trustees as quickly as possible.

The board remains legally responsible for all activities of the charity, including matters delegated to staff and/or volunteers – and it is recommended that some duties are never delegated to others.

Document your delegation 

A scheme of delegation is a reference document showing what authority the board has delegated to committees, other volunteers or staff under the powers of the Constitution. It indicates where further details of the delegations may be 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 ensures that trustees are able to fulfil their legal and constitutional duties, through levers which enable them to delegate, monitor and if necessary, withdraw the delegated authority if it is considered in the interests of the charity and its beneficiaries.

Find out more

  • NCVO members can download sample role descriptions and sub-committee terms of reference from Board Basics in our Tools & Resources section.

Page last edited Aug 16, 2021

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