Governance round-up: May 2016

Charity Commission governance in the spotlight

In our last governance round-up we highlighted the concerns shared by our chief executive Sir Stuart Etherington about the political independence of the commission and its board members. Third Sector’s Stephen Cook now explores this issue in more depth, outlining potential improved governance structures and calling on the commission to publish last year’s review of its governance in full rather than just in summary form.

Charity reserves: Too much? Too little?

Saba Salman draws on recent NCVO Almanac data in the Guardian, to explore the age old question of how much charities should ideally hold in reserves and the implication on seeking grants and funding.

Saba considers the importance of being stable and sustainable but also the risks associated with being seen as ‘hording’ money. The article makes the case for regular review and explanation of reserves by trustees.

New tools and resources

We are pleased to be launching our new ‘board basics’ section of NCVO Knowhow Nonprofit. This section contains a practical collection of some of the most important sample documents, templates and tools for trustee boards and are free for use by all NCVO members.

From sub-committee terms of reference to annual report and accounts templates; board basics is the place to look. If you are not a member why not join us to access these resources.

From the Charity Commission

The Charity Commission is inviting views on how the statement of recommended practice (SORP) can be further improved. The commission are hoping to draw on the experience of practitioners following the implementation of the new SORP in 2015. In particular they are keen to hear about your experiences in:

  • the SORP’s structure, format and accessibility
  • implementation issues that require improvements to the SORP
  • SORP committee members’ suggestions for changes to the SORP
  • charity regulator themes for making changes to the SORP
  • and your ideas for items to remove, change or add to improve the SORP.


This week saw publication of the commission’s investigation into the relationship between Age UK and energy supplier E.ON. The commission has made specific recommendations for Age UK and reiterates that for the wider sector ‘trustees must have effective oversight of any partnership or agreement with commercial organisations and (must) be able to show decisions are made in the best interests of the charity and they have acted responsibly’.

The commission have also published findings from investigations into the funding of Cage a non-charitable organisation by The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and The Roddick Foundation. In both cases the commission say they feel trustees acted in good faith but have requested reviews of control and scrutiny processes – Third Sector have taken a closer look at the outcomes.

The commission has warned that trustees, charity professionals and volunteers should continue to be aware of online extortion or ‘ransom’ demands affecting UK businesses. Highlighting that charities remain at risk of online extortion demands and what to look out for.

Best of the blogs

Upcoming training and events

  • Charity Trustees: Induction and refresher training – 17 June 2016
  • The high performance board – 27 June 2016
  • Charity Trustees: Induction and refresher training – 15 July 2016
  • Becoming a trustee (part of the Step on Board Open Programme) – 15 July 2016


This is my first regular governance round-up, for more regular updates follow me @mynameisdanfran or @NCVO on Twitter.


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Dan is responsible for NCVO’s governance consultancy offer, focusing on governance reviews, board performance and trustee training. He joined NCVO from the National Union of Students (NUS) where, as a long standing consultant, he supported the organisational development of local students’ unions as charities.

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