Governance round-up: January 2019

Ethical principles published

Following significant engagement and consultation with the sector, NCVO has published principles and guidance. These aim to support charities, their boards, and their workers and volunteers in recognising and resolving ethical issues and conflicts and make charities safer.

Charities adopting the principles agree to uphold the following throughout their work:

The new principles provide an overarching framework to guide decision making and are intended to complement the Charity Governance Code, the latest version of which contains a renewed emphasis on values and integrity.

The whole organisation should be held accountable for modelling the behaviours set out by the principles. As such governing bodies, staff and volunteers should actively consider how the principles can be integrated into all their work and decision making. It is worth reflecting on these as a board and considering how best to integrate and reflect the principles in the work of your charity. If you want to find out more about using the principle then we will be running a session at our annual conference in April.

Transparency and public benefit

The Charity Commission’s review of charity accounts states that charities are not doing enough to demonstrate their public benefit or explain how they spend their money. The Commission’s review compared accounts with public expectations and public benefit reporting requirements finding that 70% of trustees’ annual reports met the basic benchmark of user requirements.

The Commission says that the main reason some charities did not meet the basic benchmark was that their accounts had been subject to independent scrutiny by an auditor or independent examiner where required. They may have also not provided meaningful information about their charity’s purposes, aims or the activities carried out to achieve them.

Last year the Commission published research into trust in charities which found that the public feel transparency about the distribution of funds, and the end impact that donations have, is critical to increasing their trust in charities. The Commission has urged trustees to be transparent in their reports and accounts.

There has been a significant drive for both transparency and authenticity in order to increase the public’s trust in charities over the last five years. The inquiry into senior staff pay highlighted the value of transparency and the importance of explaining the rationale for investment, and the review of fundraising had a similar focus. The Charity Governance Code, published in 2017, encourages boards to operate with a ‘presumption of openness’. This means that trustees should consider being open about all their decisions unless they are deemed sensitive. In addition to the Commission’s recommendation, we would recommend using this code to consider how your board could go further to develop its openness and accountability.

Best of the blogs

New year message

In his new year message Sir Stuart Etherington, NCVO’s chief executive, calls for a sense of optimism in civil society and how it remains an engine of social and economic progress despite a turbulent environment.

The road ahead

In her blog, Elizabeth Chamberlain, NCVO’s head of policy and public services, introduced the annual NCVO year ahead report. Chamberlain highlights the three key themes of Brexit ‘attention deficit’, a challenging economic outlook and the importance of social connections. We would encourage trustees to read and consider the implications of these challenges and opportunities for your charity.

Update on charity chairs’ Beacon Programme

The Association of Chairs’ Beacon Programme is delivering a series of workshops across England alongside live webinars and practical written resources. Tailored to support chairs and vice chairs of smaller charities, a travel bursary is available for those who hold those job titles in organisations with an annual income under £100,000. Find your closest workshop location and book your space.

Training and Events

NCVO Annual Conference

Registration open for our Annual Conference which will take place on 1 April is now open. The conference is themed on looking to the future with a focus on navigating through major changes and identify trends and tools that can support your organisation.

Governance training

You might also be interested in our Introduction to Trusted Charity Quality Mark courses.

Dan Francis is NCVO’s senior governance consultant. For more regular updates follow @mynameisdanfran or @NCVO on Twitter.

 

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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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