Governance round-up: February 2020

Trusteeship in 2020

Louise Thomson from The Governance Institute has shared her thoughts on the big challenges and issues which charity boards will face in 2020. Top of Louise’s list is risk management and reporting. Louise says trustees will increasingly be pressed to be more robust in assessing this. To determine whether risk appetite, management and oversight are fit for purpose.

This is a trend NCVO have seen emerging through our work with boards. Trustees are understandably anxious to make sure they’re aware of risks, managing these and reporting them when serious. The real challenge is to strike the delicate balance between risk management, oversight and control while not becoming risk-averse. That’s easier said than done in a climate of compliance but it’s something all boards need to work on. My advice is to get your risk management processes right. But also have open and honest conversations about how risk makes trustees feel and your appetite for it. You can read more about our guidance on risk here.

Louise also identifies the following issues as being key to boards in 2020:

  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Brexit
  • Staff well-being

I also agree with Louise’s conclusion that increasingly we can learn from the strengths and weaknesses of governance in other sectors. And draw conclusions for how we might improve our own practice.

Charity Governance Code review

The consultation on reviewing the Code is still open and entering its final month. I’ve written in the past about the importance of keeping the Code up to date and the need for continual review. If you have ideas about how to improve the code, make sure you complete the consultation before the end of February 2020.

Best of the blogs

Why are BAME people under-represented on charity trustee boards?

Malcolm John, who founded the Action for Trustee Racial Diversity campaign has written about the barriers and lack of resources available to Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) trustees. It addresses the significant and longstanding under-representation of people from BAME backgrounds on charity boards.

Malcolm highlights just 6.6% of trustees of large charity boards define as being from an ethnic minority. 14% of the England and Wales population is from a non-white background. In London, the figure is 36.8%.

Time for more focus on the chief executives role in governance?

As part of the consultation on the Code, the steering group are publishing regular blog posts on key topics related to the consultation. In the latest of the series Ros Oakley explores the relationship between the board and the executive. She asks if the current version of the Code goes far enough in describing such an essential relationship.

From the commission

  • Fraud alert: The commission have issued an alert as they’ve received several reports from charities who’ve been targeted by fraudsters. These fraudsters have been impersonating members of staff. And specifically, attempting to change employees bank details. In all these cases the request was made through email.
  • Disqualification after illegal trustee payments: Trustees of the Jole Rider Friends charity have been banned for 12 years from serving as trustees by regulator after paying themselves more than £320,000. The Commission engaged with the charity in 2015, identifying it only had two trustees. Further enquiries revealed other serious concerns including the trustees receiving payment, violating their own constitution.

Training and conferences

NCVO Annual Conference – 20 April

At the Annual Conference 2020 we ask the question: What’s next for the voluntary sector? In this time of uncertainty, the conference will provide a space for leaders to discuss the role of the sector in a rapidly changing world. Book your place now.


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

Dan Francis is NCVO’s lead 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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