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National Trust Council members standing in a garden listening to someone do a talk
National Trust Council members at Florence Court, County Fermanagh | © National Trust Images/Ronan McGrade

The National Trust Council helps to look after the places in our care for future generations. Its 36 members advise on important decisions, inform strategy and keep us connected to the wider public. Learn how Council members are elected and how they make sure we’re delivering on our main responsibilities and tasks.

What does the Council do?

The Council plays an important role in how the Trust is governed. Its main responsibilities are to appoint the members of the Board of Trustees (our governing body) and to monitor and support their work.

Council members meet three times a year to debate key strategic issues and advise the Board of Trustees. They also use their networks to inspire support for the Trust among members and the wider public. It's a great opportunity to have your say and make sure the Trust sticks to its purpose as a charity.

They discuss a wide range of subjects, from the coast and countryside to urban places and conservation. They also cover topics such as how we can make sure everyone feels welcome at the places they visit or how we can extend our reach into local communities.

Annual review

Each year the Board of Trustees presents an annual review of its work to the Council, as well as its plans for the following year. This presentation is supported by a paper from the Board which is sent to all Council members before the meeting.

There’s a full discussion of all plans after the presentation when Council members can quiz the Board of Trustees and voice any concerns. We expect all Council members to get actively involved in debating important points of strategy and principle. They provide guidance and perspective to the Board of Trustees.

How are Council members elected?

Council elections take place every year. Election vacancies are usually advertised from late February to the end of March, ahead of a ballot in autumn. Half of the Council are elected by Trust members and the other half by our Council's Appointing Bodies – 18 organisations that are elected by National Trust members every six years. The results of the ballot are announced at the Annual General Meeting.

Council members serve an initial term of three years and are then eligible to re-stand.

The Council establishes a Nominations Committee to oversee the election process and make recommendations to the membership in a report for the AGM.

Who’s involved?

We welcome people from all walks of life and backgrounds, as we want a variety of different perspectives in Council discussions.

It’s important to us that our Council reflects the breadth and diversity of our work and the people who visit the special places we look after.

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Learn about the National Trust Council

The Council plays an important role in how the National Trust is governed and helps to look after the places in our care for future generations to enjoy. In this video, discover the role of a Council member and their day-to-day tasks

The Council is made up of 36 members who have a range of expertise in everything from education and agriculture to nature and the built environment.

Read about the current Council members and the experience they bring to the role below.

Meet our Council


René Olivieri

René Olivieri was appointed Chair of the National Trust in February 2022. He moved from the United States to the UK in 1980 to become first editorial director and then chief executive of the international scientific and scholarly publisher, Blackwell.

In 2007 he became Chair of Tubney Charitable Trust, a major grant maker, supporting animal welfare and nature conservation charities. He then served as chair of the Wildlife Trusts for six years, before joining the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2018, where he was initially the Senior Independent Director and subsequently Interim Chair. He was a member of the £2 billion Culture Recovery Fund Board and continues to serve on the government’s Cultural and Heritage Capital Advisory Board. Since becoming Chair of the RSPCA in 2019, he's overseen the modernisation of that organisation’s governance, finances and strategy.

Through his career in publishing, René has extensive experience of scientific research and higher education and has published peer-reviewed articles himself; he was a member of the board of the Higher Education Funding Council for England for many years. René cares deeply about biodiversity and the environment but he's also passionate about our built heritage and feels strongly that the pleasure and benefits of both nature and heritage should be open to everyone.

René is an avid horseman, tennis player, and theatregoer. He and his family live in Worcestershire where they share the extensive gardens of their home with the public and host, jointly with the Royal Shakespeare Company, an annual Tulip Festival.

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National Trust Council Chair, René Olivieri at the 2023 AGM

How we are run 

Discover how the National Trust is run, how our governance arrangements are underpinned by Acts of Parliament and how they are designed to support and challenge our staff.

The National Trust's Annual General Meeting 2019 in the Steam Museum, Swindon

Board of Trustees 

Discover who sits on the National Trust's Board of Trustees, what experience they bring to the role and how they work together to meet the Trust's purpose.

Members of the National Trust Council sit at tables in a meeting room

Appointing Bodies 

Our Council's Appointing Bodies are 18 organisations that are elected by National Trust members every six years. Learn about what they are and what they do.

Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust


Director-General Hilary McGrady has worked for the Trust since 2006, having been Regional Director for a number of regions and Chief Operating Officer since 2014.

Three members of National Trust staff having a conversation in an office

How governance appointments are made 

Find out more about how we appoint the volunteers who oversee the governance arrangements of the National Trust, ensuring that we remain focused on achieving our mission.