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Board of Trustees


The Board of Trustees is the governing body of an organization, institution, or business that oversees its operation, financial management, and policy-making. The members of this board are elected or appointed officials who accept the fiduciary responsibility to act in the institution’s best interest. Their roles may include financial oversight, strategic planning, and policy approval.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Board of Trustees” is: bɔːrd ʌv trʌstiːz

Key Takeaways

<ol><li>The Board of Trustees serves as the governing body of an institution: This group of individuals holds a significant amount of responsibility in terms of making crucial decisions that directly impact the future of the organization, whether it’s a university, nonprofit organization, or a corporation. Their role typically involves strategic planning, policy development, financial oversight, and organizational performance measures.</li><li>Members bring varied expertise: Each trustee brings their own unique skills, knowledge, and experience to the board. This could range from business acumen to intimate knowledge of the institution’s mission. The diversity and breadth of the trustees’ expertise greatly contribute to the overall health and success of the institution.</li><li>Trustees are typically selected for set terms: Board of Trustees members are usually elected or appointed for specific terms and may be reappointed depending on the institution’s bylaws. This helps ensure a steady transition of power, fresh perspectives and a continuity in the board’s activities. They are also expected to maintain an ethical duty of loyalty to the institution, meaning they must always act in the organization’s best interests.</li></ol>


The term “Board of Trustees” is important in business/finance because it refers to a group of people that oversee the management and operations of an organization, typically a corporation, university or a non-profit organization. This board plays a crucial role in setting the organization’s overall strategic direction, ensuring its financial sustainability, and maintaining its integrity. Their duties may also include hiring and evaluating the CEO, and approving annual budgets. As custodians of the organization’s assets, they have a significant responsibility towards the stakeholders to ensure effective corporate governance, financial stability, and future growth, which qualify their role as crucial in business and finance.


The purpose of a Board of Trustees primarily revolves around the governance and strategic oversight of an organization, commonly in not-for-profit and educational institutions but they can also function in corporations. These highly respected individuals are entrusted with a fiduciary responsibility to make decisions in the best interest of the organization and its stakeholders. The board’s chief responsibilities often include shaping the institution’s mission, establishing policies, providing resources, strategic planning, and representing the interests of stakeholders. They may also be involved in fundraising or overseeing specific funds related to the institution.Furthermore, the Board of Trustees helps to keep the organization accountable and transparent, especially in financial matters. Since they are often volunteers who do not generally partake in the organization’s daily operations, they are able to provide an unbiased perspective. They play an instrumental role in vetting and hiring key executive roles such as the CEO or President of the organization. They also have the authority to assess the performance of these executives. By doing these, they ensure that the organization remains focused on its primary objectives and adheres to its policies, providing long-term stability.


1. Harvard University Board of Trustees: This board, also known as the Harvard Corporation, is responsible for determining the university’s strategic direction, ensuring it remains financially stable, and enforcing its mission. They make critical decisions about the university’s investments, governance, and educational policies.2. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Board of Trustees: This board oversees the foundation’s mission and strategic approach to achieving its goals. They approve the foundation’s strategies, review results, advocate public issues and set the organization’s overall direction.3. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Board of Trustees: The board members are responsible for ensuring the nonprofit broadcasting corporation fulfills its mission to provide public television programs to viewers across the U.S. The board makes decisions regarding programming, fundraising, and operations.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Who are the Board of Trustees?

The Board of Trustees are a group of individuals that are elected or appointed to oversee the management and governance of an organization or institution. This could be a non-profit organization, a university, or a corporation.

What is the role of the Board of Trustees?

The Board of Trustees has the ultimate responsibility for the financial and legal affairs of the organization or institution. They approve budgets, set policy, and often hire and oversee the Chief Executive Officer or President.

How often does a Board of Trustees meet?

The frequency of Board of Trustees meetings can vary depending on the organization or institution. Some boards meet monthly, while others meet quarterly or annually.

Can anyone become a member of the Board of Trustees?

Generally, individuals are nominated or elected to serve on the board. This process varies depending on the organization’s bylaws. Some organizations have specific criteria for board members, such as specific skills or experiences.

What are some common committees within a Board of Trustees?

Common committees may include an executive committee, finance committee, audit committee, nominating or governance committee, and more. The specific committees will depend on the needs and structure of the organization.

How long is the term for a trustee on the Board of Trustees?

The length of the term can vary significantly between institutions, but a term of two to five years is common. Some boards have term limits, while others allow trustees to serve indefinitely.

Who chairs the Board of Trustees?

The Chair of the Board of Trustees is generally a member of the board who has been elected by the other board members. The Chair leads board meetings and works closely with the CEO or President to set the strategic direction of the organization.

How does the Board of Trustees make decisions?

Decisions are typically made through a voting process. Depending on the bylaws of the organization, decisions may require a simple majority, a two-thirds majority, or in some cases, a unanimous vote.

Can a trustee be removed from the Board?

Yes, a trustee can be removed from the board, usually through a vote by the other board members. The specifics of this process are generally outlined in an organization’s bylaws.

Are trustees typically paid for their role?

This varies depending on the organization and the specifics of the role. In non-profit organizations, trustees are often unpaid volunteers. In for-profit institutions, trustees may be paid a fee for their service.

Related Finance Terms

  • Endowment: A financial asset, often in the form of donations, given to non-profit organizations or institutions such as universities, museums, and hospitals. The board of trustees usually manages and oversees the allocation of these assets.
  • Fiduciary Duty: A legal obligation of one party to act in the best interest of another. The party charged with this obligation is called the fiduciary; board of trustees holds fiduciary duties towards the organization they serve.
  • Non-Executive Directors: Members of a company’s board of trustees who are not part of the company’s executive team. They typically do not engage in the day-to-day management of the organization but are involved in policy making and planning exercises.
  • Corporate Governance: The system of rules, practices, and processes by which a company is directed and controlled. The board of trustees plays a crucial role in corporate governance, making key decisions and setting strategic goals.
  • Conflict of Interest Policy: A guideline addressing scenarios where a trustee’s personal interest might contradict their responsibility towards the organization. Such a policy helps to ensure that decisions are made in the organization’s best interests.

Sources for More Information

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