Governance round-up: June 2017

Beneficiaries on boards

’Beneficiaries are the people who know first-hand the importance of a charity’s mission. They can bring skills, vision and passion, plus personal experience‘ to the boardroom. This is the compelling argument made by Joel Rose, chief executive of Cardiomyopathy UK in the Guardian Voluntary Sector this week on the advantages of having a board of trustees who are service users.

In his article Joel recognises that the model isn’t fit for all charities. He highlights that service users don’t all think alike and that being a service user cannot be the only requirement on a person specification.

I’ve seen first-hand the power of having a beneficiary led boards in many charities. Before joining NCVO I spent eight years working with the boards of students’ unions where students make up over 50% of trustees. I’m a firm believer that trustees with lived experience of the issues, who are connected to the beneficiary community, can provide a real-time check adding both authority and legitimacy to decision making. Running an organisation requires skills, knowledge and specialist expertise but we shouldn’t assume these skills are exclusive to being a beneficiary.

As with so much in effective governance, beneficiary involvement for many charities will be a matter of proportion and balance. Achieving a mix of those trustees with a strong connection to the charity and those with some distance and independence. Charities who navigate this path – and realise the benefits of beneficiary involvement in the boardroom – have often committed effort and resource to ensuring that meetings are accessible and the trustee role demystified. As part of their efforts to recruit service user trustees, we worked with The Advocacy project on developing accessible versions of the NCVO Good Trustee Guide.

Update on the new Charity Governance Code

I’ve been working closely with the Governance Code steering group to finalise the draft code, arrange an update to the website and get everything translated into Welsh in time for new code’s planned launch in early July. This follows an extensive consultation on a draft version, to which we received over 200 responses. Visit the codes website or watch this blog for updates.

Reminder on 2016 annual return

The commission has also issued a reminder that if you are yet to file accounts from 2016 you have 10 months from the end of your charity’s financial year to do so.

In the news and blogs

  • The governance of the RSPCA has been under the spotlight recently, with the departure of a number of trustees. More recently the CEO the charity commission has said the charity needed to resolve governance issues or face further regulator action. A recent governance review has been published making over 40 recommendations. The report highlighted the need to take swift action to address issues with a focus on widening the mix of skills on its trustee board. The report recommends introducing the appointment trustees based on skills and experience rather than drawing just from the charities council.
  • Tracey Crouch, has been appointed as minister for sport and civil society, following the general election.Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, welcomed Crouch’s appointment but said he said he remained cautious about the size of that brief following a merger of civil society and sport.
  • My colleague Nadeem has written on the importance of trustees in leading quality processes.


NCVO training and events

Governance Forum – 3 July

NCVO’s governance forum meets twice a year with the purpose of providing peer support, learning and the sharing of good practice for individuals from organisations across civil society about good governance. The next governance forum will provide an introduction to the new charity governance code, exploring practically how to use the new code which is due to be published in the coming month.

Sign up to the forum here.


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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