Governance round-up: July 2016

Public trust in charities

At the end of June the Charity Commission published research findings that public trust in charities has fallen to the lowest recorded level since monitoring began in 2005. The findings show that trust in charities has fallen from 6.7 out of 10 in 2014 to 5.7 this year. The main reason given for trusting charities less, cited by 33% of people questioned, was media coverage.

Writing for the Guardian, William Shawcross said that the commission will play its part in restoring confidence, but that there is a ‘limit to what regulation can achieve’. William made the case that charities needed to do a lot to rebuild the public’s trust.

Consultation into use of official warning power

The commission opened a public consultation seeking views on how it proposes to implement its new statutory power to issue official warnings to a trustee or to charities.

At NCVO we have raised concerns that the proposals give the commission a high degree of discretion and that they ‘do little to provide reassurance to those who fear the commission may make unreasonable or arbitrary use of the power’. Civil Society have also highlighted the concerns raised by Rosamund McCarthy, partner at Bates Wells Braithwaite, that the draft guidance is misleading and does not contain some key assurances.

Trustees and fundraising: New regulator launches

The new fundraising regulator launched at the start of July and now takes responsibility for overseeing the sectors Code of Fundraising Practice and any complaints about fundraising practice. As mentioned in last month’s round up, the Charity Commission has also published the final version of its guidance for charities and fundraising CC20.

In the news

Last month’s Brexit vote has obviously been dominating the headlines. Third Sector have written a summary of sector leaders’ responses to the news. My colleague Daniela has also captured some of the key implications for the voluntary sector in her blog post summarising what was discussed during our online event on the topic.

Earlier this month I contributed to Nicola Slawson’s Guardian piece which explored the ‘Social media essentials for boards and trustees’. Nicola looks at how celebrating volunteers or summarising board meetings online can raise an organisation’s profile, but Nicola recognises that in many situations trustees may still feel nervous about getting stuck in when it comes to social media.

Third Sector reported on the evidence given by sector bodies, including NCVO, to the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities which suggested ‘that the new tough stance of the regulator is not always helpful’ and that the approach may be ‘undermining trust in sector’.

Best of the blogs

Many of this month’s blogs responded to the Charity Commission’s research findings on public confidence by recognising a sense of urgency and offering perspectives on the role of charities.

  • Sarah Atkinson, director of policy and communications at the Charity Commission, observed that ‘if you know what matters to the public, and you act on it decisively, you can regain trust’ and that ‘charities need to get the message out to the public that things are changing, and show that they care about winning back public trust’.
  • Karl Wilding, NCVO’s director of public policy and volunteering, responded to the commission’s research by making the case that charities need to work together to show the world that charity is changing. Karl suggests ‘this means setting our own, higher standards in relation to fundraising. It means strengthening our governance. It means upping our game on transparency and accountability. It means getting better at reporting our impact and showing why and how we make a difference.’
  • Sally Cupitt, head of NCVO Charities Evaluation Services, makes a compelling case for the importance of impact measurement in restoring confidence.

From the commission

The Charity Commission has published its annual report for 2015-2016, which sets out its progress against its strategy.

New risk register tool

In CC26 the commission says that ‘charity trustees should regularly review and assess the risks faced by their charity in all areas of its work and plan for the management of those risks’. As part of our suite of practical tools and resources my colleague Myles have developed a highly practical and easily adaptable risk register tool.

Catch up on the webinars

Don’t miss out if you were unable to attend either of our recent online events, both are available to watch:

Governance Forum

The Governance Forum meets twice a year to provide peer support, learning and the sharing of good practice for governance professionals from organisations across civil society.

The next Governance Forum on 10 October will be chaired by Rosie Chapman as the chair of the Good Governance Code Steering group and we will be using the opportunity to explore potential developments in the code. If you are interested in attending then please get in touch.

Upcoming training and events

  • Charity trustees: Induction and refresher training – 12 September 2016
  • NCVO’s Governance Forum – 10 October 2016 (forum members)
  • The high performance board – 17 October 2016
  • NCVO Trustees Conference – 7 November 2016


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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