Governance round-up: March 2018

Using the Charity Governance Code in medium and small charities

We have been told that findings of a survey conducted as part of the Weston Charity Awards have found that leaders of the UK’s small and medium sized charities, who engaged with the awards, have a high level of awareness and have taken action on the new Charity Governance Code published last summer. Although this is a relatively small sample of 234 respondents,  it is the first survey of its kind, and offers a good indication that there is awareness of the code and that boards are using it to improve their governance.

According to the survey conducted last October four out of five leaders of charities with income under £5m are aware of the Code and one third have already held or have plans to hold a dedicated session to ensure they apply its principles.

Rosie Chapman, independent chair of the Charity Governance Code steering group said:

It’s early days for the new Code but so pleasing to see that the majority of smaller charities responding to the survey are aware of it and that a third have already acted upon it. We’ve relied almost entirely on voluntary efforts to get the word out but there’s certainly scope to spread the word further.

Gillian Murray, chief executive of Pilotlight, who conducted the research said:

Given that the new Code is not a legal or regulatory requirement, the high engagement levels within a short space of time show that charity leaders value good governance. At Pilotlight we work with small charities to make them more effective and sustainable, and 98% of charities we work with report their governance improves as a result. The challenge for small charity executives is to turn good intentions into effective governance, despite competing demands on their time.

I am delighted that, drawing on lessons from the work of Pilotlight, Gillian has written a ‘How to’ for NCVO on delivering good governance using the code for small and medium size charities containing useful tips and advice.

We welcome these findings and are keen to go further by asking; how the code can be applied to micro charities (those organisations with less than £10k income or with no staff)? We will be exploring this question over the coming months and developing practical guidance on using the code for the boards of very small charities. I’ll be providing a detailed update on this in a future round up.

Lessons from a charity merger

Leah Swain, chief executive of Community First Yorkshire, has written about their charity’s experience of merging from a position of strength. Leah talks about the need for commitment, external support and taking good advice. As well as being committed, asking for support as well as keeping a sense of humour!

Charities in the news

Oxfam appoints safeguarding commission

In the wake of the issues around safeguarding discussed in my blog last month, Oxfam has appointed an independent commission to look into all aspects of culture, policy and practices relating to safeguarding. It will make the findings public within 12 months.

NCVO’s chair Peter Kellner has spoken to Third Sector about the fallout of the safeguarding scandals and the implications for NCVO’s 13,000 members. Peter argues that ‘the majority of our members are small and medium-sized charities that have nothing to do with that world, and for whom the paramount need is that they don’t suffer collateral damage’.

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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Avatar photo 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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