Governance round-up: March 2017

Refining the regulatory approach

Paula Sussex, chief executive of the Charity Commission, has posted a blog which sets out the Commission’s revised regulatory approach.

Paula’s blog says the Commission continues to believe they can best fulfil their statutory objectives by ‘concentrating on promoting compliance’ but we welcome that Paula points to increasing the Commission’s digital reach, and working closely with partners as methods for supporting a renewed focus on ‘promoting trusteeship and supporting trustees’. We hope to work closely with the commission and others on developing this support and hope that current research on trustee motivations and guidance will provide us with valuable information on areas where we need to focus our efforts.

Trustees: Nightmare or invaluable asset?

Over the past few weeks the Guardian Voluntary Sector has been exploring the role and effectiveness of trustee boards through opinion pieces. The conversation was started through their confessions of a charity professional series where a CEO discussed their frustration with trustees, arguing that boards are often ‘rife with internal politics, power struggles and competing agendas’. The anonymous post advocates for an alternative approach where responsibilities are shared across a senior management team ‘whose jobs are on the line and who could perform peer reviews’.

While I recognise some of the experiences outlined in the post, my experience is quite different. I’m not naive to the fact that personal interests, domineering individuals or groupthink occur, but I’m not convinced this is unique to our sector or voluntary boards. Through my work, I typically deal with passionate and committed trustees who work voluntarily and collectively to advance charitable – not personal – objectives. To my mind the voluntary principle of trusteeship, the duty not to profit, and the joint responsibility and liability of trustees all mean that boards are well placed to ensure accountability and exercise scrutiny. This is not to say that good governance doesn’t require work or that a single model is suitable for all organisations, but I’m not convinced that the alternatives put forward are the solution. I suspect they would just move rather than solve some of the issues which arise.

I agree with Shivaji Shiva’s analysis in his article that abolishing the voluntary principle that underpins most trustee boards would only serve to strip this vibrant sector of a key asset as the ‘lack of financial motivation is an asset, not a liability’ and that volunteer charity trustees are better placed than employees to appreciate when working to keep the organisation going is no longer the best way to achieve charitable aims’.

The Guardian has also captured readers responses here.

From the Commission…

Updated financial responsibilities guidance

The Commission has released an updated CC25 on financial responsibilities. The Commission has confirmed that legal duties regarding financial management haven’t changed but that they are making a conscious push to ensure trustees are best placed to protect their charity’s assets and resources. CC25 accompanies an updated 15 questions trustees should ask about finances.

Blogs and news…

Lords to publish 100 recommendations for charities on Sunday

Baroness Pitkeathley, chair of the House of Lords Committee on Charities, will recommend 100 changes to strengthen the sector, and its law and regulation when they publish their report this Sunday.

Brexit and charities

Our CEO Sir Stuart Etherington has written a blog calling on charities to have a voice in Brexit. Stuart has suggested that the surprise of the result to many in the sector means we need to ask ourselves some important questions. Are we close enough to the communities we represent to have seen how people felt? Have we been carrying out our duty to build communities’ capabilities to speak up and make their voices heard? Trustees should consider discussing these questions, together with some of our other analysis on Brexit, at their next meeting to plan for the challenges that Brexit may bring, but also to ensure they are identifying any opportunities and maximising the benefit to the communities and individuals they serve.

Small charities ‘pressured not to say anything too controversial’

Speaking at a Lloyds foundation event, Sarah Mitchell, chief executive of Carers Network, has said that small charities are under ‘a lot of pressure not to say anything controversial’ due to local funding cuts. Read the full write up in civil society.

NCVO training and events

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Dan Francis 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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