Board volunteering

What do we mean by volunteering for a Board or Committee?

Board Volunteering

In Scotland there are many types of groups and organisations who have a committee or Board of people running the organisation: 

  • Some of these organisations are unincorporated associations who are usually a union of individuals who enter into an agreement as volunteers to form a loose body to accomplish a purpose. They have little formal structure.
  • Other groups and organisations are incorporated. When this is the case usually the leaders of the group or organisation have decided to formalise their approach to managing the organisation’s purpose. Businesses for example are usually incorporated and deliver services and make money – profit making. 
  • In the case of organisations whose purpose is not to make money/profit but have a desire to make a difference for a good cause, these are often referred to as voluntary. In these voluntary incorporated organisations, it can often be the case that people who sit on the Board or Committee are volunteers.  
Being a volunteer board or committee member can often be seen as a significant leadership role as well.

Volunteers do play a vital role - whether unincorporated or incorporated. More than often volunteers are solely responsible for overseeing an organisation’s purpose/work by making sure it is properly run and that procedures, policies are in place to manage it effectively. 

Often there are different terms applied to volunteers in this role:

  • committee members
  • directors
  • board members
  • governors
  • trustees

Knowing what might be required as a volunteer leader is really important.  We’d advocate that this isn’t just about the governance of the organisation but also importantly about recognising and leading good practice in volunteer engagement throughout an organisation. 

Leading the way as a volunteer board member is a vital role and one we can support and help with through our training programmes. 


We know how very important volunteers are to many organisations across Scotland. Whether that’s for cancer care, tackling poverty, helping the environment, caring for older people, animal protection, supporting young people, unemployed and many areas we feel passionate about. 

Our Scottish Charities Survey shows that over 55% of charities are run solely by volunteers – a huge effort and one we commend and support completely. 

If you’re a volunteer on a Board or Committee then this should be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. This experience should be led by volunteer board and committee members in a way that’s engaging, friendly, well meaning and supportive. 

Responsibilities and requirements

In the case of Charities – there are over 23,000 in Scotland regulated by a Government body called the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR). Charity trustees provide leadership to their charity and make sure it is doing what it set out to.  Most trustees are volunteers who offer their time for free.

As a volunteer trustee you have special responsibilities and requirements which must align with those required by OSCR. There is really useful guidance provided by OSCR on what these duties are and what’s required.

Other Support

Other organisations also offer support to volunteer board or committee members.  The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations helps and supports voluntary organisations.  SCVO estimate that there are around 45,000 voluntary organisations, in Scotland ranging from grassroots organisations in neighbourly health support groups, childcare, arts, faith, sports and other groups such as housing, social care and enterprise.  All playing a vital role as part of Scottish Society and many 1000s of these organisations are run solely by volunteers.  SCVO provide some useful guidance on how to set up your new voluntary organisations, how to manage finances, Governance and much more.