In June, the Charity Commission reported the findings of an inquiry into a high profile national charity. In the foreword to the report, the Rt Hon Baroness Stowell of Beeston MBE, chair of the Charity Commission, reminds us that…
“no charity is more important that its purpose or the people it cares for”.
Transparent and accountable governance in charities – Trustees’ responsibilities
For charities, good governance is crucial, however it is just as crucial to show that it is also transparent and accountable. In this respect the buck stops with the charity’s trustees who are responsible for the overall strategy, for supervising senior staff and for ensuring that everything the charity does is designed to further its objectives and aid those it is designed to provide for or protect.
Simply meeting regularly is not sufficient. Trustees should be able to show that they have the right policies in place and that these are regularly reviewed and updated.
Failures of governance in charities – examples
There have been a number of cases of safeguarding abuses, financial mismanagement (including bogus volunteer expenses) and poor management reported in some of the largest charities in the country. A common theme across all of these cases is a failure of governance.
This failure may be due to the fact that people were not held accountable to others; a longstanding trustee or staff member is left to ‘get on with things’. In other cases, it may be that financial controls aren’t in place and therefore projects are pursued that are not financially sustainable and ultimately lead to large operating deficits which could place the future of the whole charity at risk.
In some charities, the failure of governance can come about as a result of trustees not speaking out or challenging the status quo. There may be an unhealthy situation where whatever is suggested by one person receives the automatic approval of the whole board meaning that there is no balance.
It may be that committees are formed and left to run themselves rather than being forced to report back to the trustee board on their actions.
Policies and training
Serious issues can be missed without the necessary policies being in place and appropriate training having happened. These need to cover areas such as safeguarding, conflicts of interest and data protection to name just a few.
Underpinning your governance should be a desire to ensure that the charity is doing the right things in the right way for the right people – that the purpose of the charity and the people it cares for drive everything that the charity does.
How Nelsons can help
If you have any concerns regarding charity governance or would like assistance in reviewing your governance arrangements then please contact Craig or another member of our team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.