CharityConnect has an excellent online community that enables professionals, Trustees, and other volunteers in the sector to exchange experiences, ask questions, and offer solutions to the problems faced by others.

Recently there’s been an increase in issues involving Trustees and the trustee/executive interface. Challenges have ranged from the use of Trustees’ relatives in paid professional or unpaid executive roles; handling of whistleblowers; or behaviour by executive team members towards Trustees, and vice versa – to name but a few.

Volunteers and professionals both have vital parts to play in any charity, especially in small charities where Minerva undertakes most of its work. So interpersonal clashes are not in the best interests of volunteers or the executive team, not to forget the charity’s beneficiaries.

The apparent rise in these unfortunate clashes should be seen against the backdrop of a recent (May) report by Enthuse which shows that charities are the most trusted institutions in the UK. 73% of the respondents to Enthuse’ s survey said that they had high or moderate trust in charities: more than twice as trusted as the next highest category – faith groups and religious institutions at 36%. This position of public trust is not one we should risk squandering through inappropriate battles between volunteers and executives.

One reason for the breakdown in relations between Trustees and their executive teams appears to be a failure to understand and establish the line between the respective responsibilities. Trustees need to appreciate that, whilst they exist partly to hold the executive to account, it is not appropriate for them to interfere in the operational running of the charity or to micro-manage parts of it. By the same token, executive teams should always be open to suggestions from Trustees who, after all, have their charities’ best interests at heart; and be prepared to discuss these suggestions even if, ultimately, they do not lead to changes in the charities’ organisation or direction.

It should hardly need saying – but executive teams, Trustees and other volunteers all have important parts to play in any charity. Success can be achieved through a combination of mutual respect, appreciation of boundaries and offering advice but not interference.