Board roles and responsibilities for non-profit associations and charities

by Andy Pearson in September 23rd, 2020
Board member roles

This post explains typical roles on a non profit board of directors or trustees. The board has the collective role of governing the organisation and can nominate someone to take the lead on a particular matter, such as the chair and the treasurer. Board members with special roles are sometimes known as officers. However, even when someone is given a special roles, all board members typically remain jointly responsible for the running of the organisation.

The larger the organisation, the more that day-to-day functions will be delegated to employees. However, in small organisations, it is often up to the board members to both oversee strategy and implement practical actions.

This post explores some of the common roles given to individuals on the board and provides guidance on the specific responsibilities often associated with each role. 

Board role descriptions

Chair of the board

The role of chair is to ensure the board spends its time on the issues that matter.


  • Maintain an annual agenda of board responsibilities
  • Arrange dates for meetings
  • Circulate meeting agendas in advance


  • Ensure minutes of board meetings are taken, approved in a subsequent meeting, and stored safely


  • Coordinate the annual review of board composition and allocation of special roles

Further reading

Company secretary

The role of the company secretary is to oversee the legal and governance issues associated with the organisation’s corporate and charity structure.

Record keeping

  • Ensure a well organised and secure filing system for all charity documents, accessible by all trustees


  • Maintain an appropriate insurance policy to cover the activities of the organisation

Companies House

  • Notify of changes to director details
  • Submit annual ‘confirmation statement’
  • Submit other necessary filings
  • Charity Commission (f applicable)Notify of changes to trustee details
  • Submit Annual Return
  • Submit other necessary filings

Bank accounts

  • Maintaining a bank account
  • Adding & removing signatories

Further reading

Health, safety & risk management

The role of health, safety & risk management is to anticipate issues that might cause injury or otherwise damage the operations or reputation of the organisation and put in place measures to mitigate risk.

Health & safety

  • Maintain and review a Health & Safety policy
  • ident records and report to the Trustees

Risk management

  • Maintain a register of risks and mitigating actions

Data protection

  • Maintain and review a data protection policy
  • Maintain and review a data storage register

Further reading


The role of the treasurer is to manage the organisation's finances.

Financial policies

  • Maintain and review a finance policy that includes safeguards to ensure accountability
  • Monitor compliance with the finance policy

Record keeping

  • Maintain a clear record of all financial transactions


  • Report income and expenditure to the board


  • Liaise with staff teams to suggest an annual budget
  • Coordinate Trustee approval of the budget

Annual accounts

  • Ensure that annual accounts are submitted in a timely and accurate fashion

Further reading


The role of the employment officer is to ensure that the organisation looks after its employees well.

Employment contracts

  • Maintain a contract template for use with all employees
  • Ensure all employees have a signed contract

Employment policies

  • Maintain an employee handbook: a reference point for employment policies


  • Ensure that all employees have a line manager
  • Ensure that performance and salary reviews are conducted

Employee issues & grievances

  • Be the escalation contact for any employment policy related issues or serious grievances raised by employees


  • Put in place a system for tracking annual leave

Further reading

PR , communications, membership & fundraising

The roles of PR, communications, membership and fundraising can easily be sub-divided if you have sufficient skills on the board. Broadly the role these functions cover is to oversee the externally facing activity of the organisation so that it maintains the organisation's reputation and leads to sustainable sources of income.


  • Membership recruitment strategy
  • Member engagement and communications   


  • Identify appropriate grants
  • Ensure reporting requirements are met   


  • Arrange member and fundraising events     

Website & social media

  • Oversee the organisation's online presence
  • Create a communications plan
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