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Charity Finance Professionals Community

Good Governance – why independent trustees are essential for the boards of Charitable Professional Membership Societies

Author: Charles Baden-Fuller and Paul Palmer, The Business School (Bayes), City, University of London, and Keith Lawrey, The Foundation for Science and Technology

Published: 21 Mar 2022

While most charity boards are aiming to incorporate more service user perspectives in their governance structures, many charitable membership societies are relying on member perspectives alone. In this opinion piece, Baden-Fuller, Lawrey and Palmer explain why having independent trustees is a key element of good governance and adds depth to the skillset of the boards governing charitable professional membership societies.

Governance challenges

Powers of the membership

Good governance flowchart

Recruiting independent trustees

Typical skill set of trustees list

Wise societies have appointment processes for trustees that are open, transparent, and allow proper scrutiny of the chosen outsiders.

In summary, getting the right governance for a charitable professional-membership society requires recruiting independent trustees with the correct skill set. They are an overlooked resource, to assist the membership achieve its mission.

Author email addresses: c.baden-fuller@city.ac.uk; profpalmer@city.ac.uk; keith.lawrey@foundation.org.uk

The views expressed are the authors’ and not ICAEW’s.

*The UK courts decided that the General Medical Council (GMC) as originally constructed failed to meet the public benefit test. The GMC had to change its constitution and ways of working to achieve the right balance. As summarised in https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/general-medical-council, the reconstructed GMC emphasises the benefit to the public in training and the application of professional standards, in the GMC case for health professionals, with any personal benefits to individual medical practitioners or the medical profession being no more than incidental to achieving the charitable purposes.