Governance round-up: April 2021

Where Power Lies report publication

Earlier this month we were pleased to publish Where Power Lies, a report by NCVO’s Winifred Tumin Prize winner Lucy Caldicott. In the report, Lucy explores how the frequent disconnect between those at the leadership levels of charities and those that their organisations serve can be addressed.

Lucy argues that the significant divide raises serious questions around how decision-making is carried out. Whether decision-making remains tied to the core purpose of the organisation with the right motivation, priorities and whose standard this is measured against.

She makes a strong case that at the heart of the issue of lived experience in decision-making rests the question of power, where it’s held and how it’s executed. This aligns closely with the recently published Charity Governance Code which explores the importance of recognising and addressing power imbalances.

If your board is committed to addressing this divide, Lucy pulls out five key ideas which your board could discuss and consider.

  1. Think carefully about how people with lived experience are engaged and what they’re getting in return for this engagement.
  2. Make sure people are helped to connect their personal experiences with wider systemic change.
  3. Avoid rewriting people’s words or speaking for them.
  4. Beware of retraumatising people – don’t simply encourage them to tell and retell their stories of pain.
  5. Make sure there are support mechanisms in place for the staff responsible for hearing traumatic stories.

Updated covid-19 guidance

Virtual meetings

At the end of March, a further extension to some of the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 relief measures were agreed. This new extension will last until 30 June 2021. However, it unfortunately did not include an extension to the temporary rules on holding remote meetings which I have detailed in earlier blogs. This may place some trustees in a difficult position where their charity governing document prohibits such meetings.

To clarify this point, the Charity Commission has updated its own covid-19 guidance. They are encouraging that wherever possible AGM’s and board meetings go ahead. They suggest this is done remotely or in line with government social distancing guidance.

It may be that a charity governing document does not allow remote meetings, and trustees cannot amend the document themselves. In this case, the Commission says they will understand but trustees should record this decision to demonstrate good charity governance. The same applies to the postponement of major meetings.

At NCVO we have also updated our guidance to reflect recent changes, for advice on governance and running your charity during the pandemic visit our site.

Local elections

With local elections being held around the country it would be timely for trustees to remind themselves of CC9 which covers the rules on charities and campaigning as well as the specific guidance note relating to elections.

In the news

NSPCC creates young people’s board for change

The NSPCC has recruited 15 young people aged 13 to 16 to its new young people’s board for change after receiving over 300 applications. Civil Society report that the charity has created this board to give young people the opportunity to have a say on what matters most to them. If your board is looking to attract and retain younger trustees then we recommend checking out the Young Trustee Movement.

History is complicated

Rebecca Cooney reflects in her article on the outcome of the National Trust case and the former charity commission chair’s suggestion that ‘many people seek out charities as an antidote to politics’. Rebecca offers a reminder that legally, charities are permitted to engage in political campaigning and discourse as long as it:

  • furthers their charitable objects
  • makes the case that charity and voluntary organisations have always played a central role in campaigning and advocacy.

Training and events

  • Online trustee training – NCVO runs regular online trustee inductions and refresher courses over two half days.
  • eLearning induction for trustees – NCVO recently launched our new eLearning module for trustees. This offers trustees a low-cost introduction to their roles.

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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