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Trustee disputes

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A trustee board makes decisions collectively and disagreement and healthy debate are part of good decision making process. But this can also create serious conflict.

An individual trustee has the responsibility to act solely in the best interests of the charity and the furtherance of its objects. In doing so they are required to raise any concerns with fellow trustees and seek a desired action or outcome. 

Although trustees should bring that independent thought to the table a problem often arises with the requirement that ultimately the Board decides and acts collectively and all trustees are legally bound by the decisions of the board.

This decision is usually by majority unless the governing documents stipulates consensus or some other process or definition of a valid decision.

The Chair has an important role to play to ensure open discussion, that all views of the trustees are adequately aired and to come to a collective decision– even if s/he feels strongly on the topic.

In serious matters a trustee who is in the minority may find their position untenable and so resign if they cannot in conscience be bound by the collective.

A trustee may wish to have their objection or abstention recorded in the minutes but this does not absolve them from collective responsibility.

If there are regulatory concerns then trustees can contact the Charity Commission to report a serious incident.  The Commission is clear that the concerns must be regulatory in nature and not what they would consider an internal dispute. They expect trustees to resolve these among themselves including seeking external assistance in dispute resolution such as mediation.


If all parties to a dispute agree to a mediation process then you can use the following to find a service:

Further information and help

Page last edited Jul 19, 2017

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