Below are some of the questions we often get asked about Maori Trusts, and our responses to them.
Note that without knowing more about your specific organisation, this is just general feedback rather than specific advice. Always get a professional opinion before implementing advice that might create risk for the organisation.
HOW LARGE SHOULD OUR Board BE?
We have seen organisations with three trustees and organisations with 23 trustees + 23 alternate trustees that all attend. If you are looking to be effective, we advise having 5-8 trustees that are engaged in the kaupapa of the Trust and can commit the time to move it ahead.
Trust boards that are larger than this tend to struggle for several reasons:
it can be difficult to get quorum if trustees are not turning up to meetings
decisions needing to be relitigated at every meeting, or things explained again because people missed the last meeting
discussions drag on because there are so many opinions to be heard
there becomes ‘paddlers’ who do the work and ‘passengers’ who coast along, and this frustrates the paddlers over time
the cost of remunerating trustees (the total of all trustee fees) becomes excessive
WHAT SHOULD WE PAY TrusteeS?
From our experience of working with more than 105 Maori Trusts, here are some of the things we have learned around remuneration / trustees fees:
The majority of trustee roles are unpaid, but they can claim reasonable out-of-pocket expenses (e.g. for travel to board meetings). The context of this is that most are not large organisations or iwi specific
From different research and conversations we had with Maori Trusts, of those that pay, $300 per meeting is roughly the average amount
Government advisory board roles tend to pay a meeting fee of $600-$850 per meeting.
Determining trustees fees really depends on a number of factors, including:
how many trustees there are - the more, the less the individual fee
what financial position the organisation is in to pay trustees fees
the amount of time / work that is required of trustees - especially if there is a small operations team and trustees are needed to do some operational work, this should be separately scoped and paid for separately so as to not confuse the two distinct roles
whether there will be paid for trustees work outside of board meetings, or only remunerated for formal governance meetings
whether it is a fixed fee for the whole year regardless of board meeting attendance, or is based on a per meeting fee x number of meetings a trustee attends
This is something that should be revisited annually to see whether it is still appropriate.