Governance round-up: February 2018

The last month has been filled with high profile stories which have placed governance, safeguarding and assurance firmly in the spotlight once again. In my round-up this month I have focused specifically on practical actions, tools and resources which boards can use to either improve their policies or assurance.

Charities in the news

At the end of January the FT’s investigation and reporting into the appalling revelations from Presidents Club raised both serious safeguarding questions and ethical and moral questions about accepting funds.

Over the last week the headlines focused on Oxfam tell a story of sexual misconduct and people let down by those that should have been there to help. All actions which are firmly out of step with Oxfam and wider charity values. As Oxfam’s leaders have themselves said, there are no excuses whatsoever for the crimes that people committed while working under the name of Oxfam.

These are clearly two very different cases and raise distinct issues – but they both serve as a reminder to all trustees about the importance of having proper policies and strong protections in place for those who work and volunteer in and for our organisations. A reminder also that boards need to take assurance that policies are followed and that checks (on funds and people) are robust.

At NCVO we thought it would be helpful to offer assistance and pointers in some specific topics relating to these areas listed below. Given the importance of these issues we have temporarily made a number of member resources free for non NCVO members.


Oxfam’s former global head of safeguarding Helen Evan’s revelations around how issues where dealt with and processes were followed have prompted many trustees to consider their own charities approach to safeguarding.

In the wake of the FT’s investigation into the Presidents Club the Charity Commission, recently reminded all trustees that safeguarding should be a priority for all charities and not just those working with groups traditionally considered at risk. In his blog on this topic Shaun Delaney, NCVO volunteering manager, explores how charities can be best prepared for preventing and dealing with abuse.

NCVO has a range of resources that can support you in writing a safeguarding policy with links to trusted sources of  guidance for developing polices for working with both children/young people and vulnerable adults. We have also temporarily made member content relating to safeguarding, vulnerable clients and DBS available to all not just members.


A challenge often faced by charities is that staff can feel intimidated and unable to raise the alarm through their line management. Our sample whistleblowing policy provides a good basis to develop your own policy, again we have dropped our member’s paywall for the next week to make it free to all.

Disciplinary procedures

Most of the time, things go well. But when there is alleged misconduct, whether minor or major, you need to act. It is vital that you have a disciplinary procedure. The HR section of our Knowhow Nonprofit site has guidance on the disciplinary process and again we have opened up our editable disciplinary procedure template for all to access.

Serious incident reporting

Oxfam stressed that they informed the Charity Commission of the allegations and subsequent investigation and it is worth noting that all charities are obliged to make a serious incident report to the Commission for certain matters.

Misuse of funds and financial controls

Although the Oxfam story does not allege direct misuse of charitable funds it’s also a good reminder of the need for a charity to have robust internal financial controls on expenditure to minimise the risk. Our template financial procedures manual provides a helpful start for smaller charities and the Charity Commission’s guidance on internal financial controls for charities is a good source for all treasurers, trustees and senior managers.

Communicating in a crisis

All organisations, large and small, will at some point face a situation which risks causing them some degree of reputational damage. Clearly addressing when serious issues raised should always be the first step, but its also important to consider how you manage communications in a crisis. Charity Comms have produced a guide to support organisations in planning for communications in a crisis (pdf, 550KB).

Questions for trustees

In many cases trustees will want to ensure themselves not only that good polices are in place, but that they are followed and that issues are reported up to the board. Asking and answering some of the following questions can help ensure proper oversight:

  • What is our policy in relation to a specific area?
  • Has the policy been used recently, if so what were the lessons from this?
  • Do we need to get a second opinion or external view on how this process works?
  • How are issues raised through the policy reported to the board?
  • When were our policies last reviewed?


Upcoming training and events

Dan Francis is NCVO’s Senior Governance Consultant. For more regular updates follow @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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