Students' online course aims to combat lack of charity trustees

Students' online course aims to combat lack of charity trustees 

An online course which aims to encourage more people to actively support charities has been developed by a University of Cumbria student who graduates today (Thursday November 23.)

The innovative course for charity trustees aims to meet a growing demand for help and guidance and has been developed by Julie Hutchison from Edinburgh who studied sustainable leadership at the university’s Institute for Leadership and Sustainabilty.

The initiative comes at a time when there’s growing concern about a lack of trustees offering to become involved at a time when charitable work is in demand.

“When I had the idea for creating this new course, I was underway with post-graduate studies myself at the University of Cumbria,” Julie, charities specialist at Standard Life Wealth, said.” Taking this time away from the demands of the day job reinforced in my mind the value of education in supporting positive change.  After eighteen months, with a writing team of 17, input from over 50 people and a user testing group this course is the result.”

Known as The Informed Trustee, the course will equip both established and aspiring trustees with awareness and knowledge of a broad range of charity regulation and charity finance matters.  Areas covered range from social media policies and data protection to more long-established topics of charity law, regulation, accounts and risk management. Julie says it’s intended to develop more confident trustees who are better able to participate and challenge around the board table.

“The idea came from my own work as a trustee and from talking to other people who were on the course with me at Ambleside,” Julie said. “I wanted to offer some way of demonstrating support for people who often want to give their time but have been put off or are concerned by recent charity governance failures. The Informed Trustee is aimed at further encouraging a wider mix of individuals to consider taking on a charity trustee role, supporting more diverse boards.”

Further reading is signposted in each module, to highlight existing online resources from the Charity Commission of England and Wales, the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland and OSCR, the Scottish charity regulator.  Additional web links to a range of resources from other charity sector bodies are also included. 

Being a charity trustee can be an incredibly rewarding way to support a voluntary organisation.  By volunteering in this way, you are expanding the resources available to the charity, as well as gaining experience you’ll bring back to your day job, and meeting new people.  For more information about The Informed Trustee, go to and follow on twitter @informedtrustee

"We help our professional students promote innovation by bringing ideas together from different sectors and schools of thought,” Dr Jem Bendell, professor of sustainability leadership at the University of Cumbria’s Institute for Leadership and Sustainability, said. “I think Julie's leadership shows the power of approaching today's social challenges in that way."