Governance round up – August 2014

A quick overview of the world of voluntary sector governance.

General election 2015 – planning to campaign?

With the passing of the ‘Lobbying Act’ earlier this year and now less than a year to go to the General Election the Electoral Commission has produced their Guidance for Non-Party Campaigners. This is for people and organisations that campaign in the run up to elections but do not stand as political parties or candidates. There’s a specific section for charities that tries to explain the circumstances in which awareness raising and campaigning activity might be covered by the Act.

How the law will apply is not clear cut and depends on a range of factors. NCVO continues to seek clarity and we’ll be discussing the new rules of the Lobbying Act and the Electoral Commission’s guidance at NCVO’s Campaigning Conference in September, so please join us then.

My colleague Elizabeth Chamberlain has written a summary blog post for the voluntary and community sector on complying with the Lobbying Act.  Of course, charity campaigning was a well regulated area anyway with existing Charity Commission guidance (CC9) available on complying with the charity law.

£1000 prize for Good Governance

Key sector organisations including NCVO are making plans for Trustees’ Week 2014. So, that means it’s competition time in the world of governance.

Winifred Tumim Memorial Prize

Each year the Winifred Tumim Memorial prize celebrates voluntary organisations that have used the Code of Good Governance to improve their governance and enhanced the positive impact of their organisation.  With £1,000 given to the winning organisation, as well as public recognition for their achievements, this is an excellent opportunity to raise the profile of your organisation’s commitment to good governance. Find out more on our prize web page, including whether your organisation qualifies to enter.

Video competition – life as a trustee

Make a short video on life as a trustee for Trustees’ Week and you could win a place at NCVO’s 2014 Trustee Conference.

New training courses for trustees

NCVO has created two new one-day courses for trustees and chairs. The High Performance Board and Better Board Meetings  are designed to complement our existing suite of governance and strategic management courses including our ever popular Trustee Induction & Refresher session.

HMRC dump proposal to redefine charity

Last year HMRC proposed introducing a new definition of ‘charity’ for tax purposes, but they have now withdrawn this proposal following consultation with the sector. The new definition of ‘charity’ was to be introduced to prevent charities being set up to avoid tax, but concerns were raised by many in the voluntary sector as they felt it would have a ‘disproportionate and unacceptable effect’ on those looking to set up genuine charities or foundations.

SORP 2015 – getting the books in (new) order

The Charity Commission has published two new Statements of Recommended Practice (SORP) for charities, changing the way charities report financially on their activities.

Responding to sector feedback the new framework provides two new accounting standards:

  • Financial Reporting Standard applicable in the UK and the Republic of Ireland (FRS102)
  • Financial Reporting Standard for Smaller Entities (FRSSE).

To use the FRSSE, charities must meet two out of three of the following criteria:

  • an annual income of less than £6.5million;
  • total assets of less than £3.26million; or
  • fewer than 50 employees.

The new SORPs can be viewed on the SORP microsite along with SORP help sheets to assist charities in making their decision about which accounting framework to follow. There’s also a handy tool to customise the SORP to suit your charity’s structure and activities.

An MOT for voluntary sector finances – a call for evidence

NCVO is leading a review to assess the financial sustainability of voluntary organisations to identify trends that have emerged in the income, expenditure and assets of the voluntary sector since the recession and provide analysis to enable the voluntary sector to plan for the future.

A call for evidence from all voluntary organisations has been made and provides the opportunity to tell your story about the impact of the recession on your organisation and how you have adapted to the changing funding environment. Please complete the online survey by 30 September or contact my colleague Andrew O’Brien for more information.

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Myles currently leads on NCVO’s practical support offer and was previously an NCVO governance consultant. He has spent most of his career in the UK and Australian voluntary sectors. Myles is a former chief executive of both a local law centre and the Community Legal Centres Association of Western Australia. He is also an experienced trustee and chair of various frontline organisations and umbrella bodies in the legal aid, human rights and health sub-sectors.

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