18. Ex-officio, holding, custodian, co-opted

We are all trustees but one is ‘ex officio’. What does it mean?

‘Ex officio’ means that you are a trustee by virtue of the position you hold. For example some civic organisations give the mayor a seat on the committee. So whoever is Mayor is automatically on the committee by virtue of their office.

One trustee is called a ‘holding trustee’. What is that?

’Holding’ and ‘Custodian’ are similar but have slightly different meanings in law and are generally used by unincorporated (i.e. not registered at Companies House) organisations as a way of holding land. Some such trustees have no other role and do not take part in committee meetings. To determine the exact nature of their role in your committee you will need to scrutinise your constitution carefully, then refer to the Charity Commission if that does not clarify the situation.

What is a co-opted trustee. Some of the committee are saying that the co-opted trustees can’t vote. Is that right?

Co-opting trustees is simply a mechanism for bringing someone onto the committee at any time of the year where the usual process would involve an election at the AGM. A common misconception is that co-opted trustees don’t have a vote. Generally they do, as they are full trustees, but read your constitution carefully as in a significant proportion of constitutions they do not. Confusion also arises when an individual is ‘co opted’ onto the committee for a special purpose (their expertise in organising a special event for example) but it isn’t clarified what their role is; temporary full committee member, adviser with no voting rights, observer, etc. Always decide and minute at the outset the nature of the role of each person sitting round the table so that there is no confusion or misunderstanding in the future.

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A Word About Words

This site is aimed at those who govern (control) small organisations - whether they are charities, companies, both or neither. Those who govern them may be called a variety of names. We have chosen to use mainly 'management committee' and occasionally 'committee member' or 'trustee'. more...
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