Governance round-up: December 2020

I usually use my December round-up to reflect on the last 12 months. But given the year we have had, and the fact that during Trustees Week we drew on key lessons from governing during the pandemic, it feels better to break with tradition and to look forward to 2021.

There are a few developments which spark optimism for me, which I want to spotlight this month.

New NCVO eLearning for trustees

Our new eLearning module for trustees is now live. For the first time we are pleased to offer an accessible, interactive online trustee course that you can study at your own pace, at a time that suits you.

We hope this will be a game changer, ensuring at all trustees regardless of location or charity size can access affordable and effective training.

The course is designed to equip trustees and prospective board members with the basics of being a trustee. It offers an overview and understanding of roles and main duties and puts this into practice with case studies and examples.

This training does not replace our much more detailed trainer led charity trustee induction and refresher course but does offer an alternative to in-person training. It is also cheaper, and so my sense is it is particularly well suited to smaller charities.

The development of the course has taken longer than expected but the outcome has benefited form extensive expert input and user testing. I hope you find it useful and interesting!

Launch of the refreshed Charity Governance Code

On Tuesday 8 December we, together with our steering group partners, will publish a new version of the Charity Governance Code. This refresh makes sure that the code remains relevant. It also offers an exciting opportunity for trustees seeking to improve governance and implement best practice.

The update follow follows a substantial consultation involving 800 responses, focus groups and expert support in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion. I will write again in more detail when the code is launched next week to explain the key changes in the refresh.

If you just can’t handle the suspense, then you can read more detail on the consultation and watch a recent webinar detailing the proposed changes here.

Charity Governance Awards 2021

Finally, I am pleased to say that entries are now open to the Charity Governance Awards 2021. These UK awards recognise and reward charities achieving great governance. Organised by The Clothworkers’ Company alongside Prospectus and Reach Volunteering the awards are a real celebration of good governance and an opportunity to showcase excellent practice.

For 2021, the Charity Governance Awards will recognise inspirational success stories of charity boards responding to the covid-19 crisis from the frontline of the pandemic with a new category, ‘COVID-19: Embracing Opportunity and Harnessing Risk’. It is one of five categories in our Charity Governance Awards 2021 programme. Charity boards demonstrating outstanding governance and trusteeship in areas including diversity, digital and improving impact are urged to share their own examples of best practice.

Find out more about the 2021 awards and get inspired by the stories of past winners here.

Volunteers needed for comparative study between charity governance in Australia and in England and Wales

Finally, here is something interesting. Associate Professor Rosemary Langford of Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne, is conducting research on governance and regulation of charities in Australia and in England and Wales. In particular she is seeking views of charity trustees on their understanding of their governance duties and on their approach to conflicts of interest. Dr Langford hopes to gain clearer insight into these issues in order to make recommendations on legal and policy reforms for the Australian charities sector, as well as on practical measures to assist office holders of charities.

If you have time she would value your contribution to the survey which takes approximately 10–20  minutes to complete. Responses are anonymous and are not connected with the NCVO. The survey responses will be kept confidential so that the NCVO will not find out who completed the survey nor receive any information from the surveys. Participation is entirely voluntary. We will be sure to speak with Professor Langford and try to share her findings when the work is complete.

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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