Governance round-up: July 2021

Trust in charities increases

New research published by the Charity Commission shows that trust in charities is recovering to a six-year high. This is excellent news for the sector.

The Charity Commission says trust remains fragile, and points to the pandemic as being the key driver for this change. However, charities have made a visible improvement, as the work they carried out during the pandemic has been clear to the public.


Mean trust and confidence in charities (/10)

Graph showing the public's trust and confidence in charities since 2005. It shows a dip in confidence between 2016 and 2020.

*From 2018 onwards, the survey was conducted online rather than via telephone. This question, however, was also asked on a concurrent telephone survey as a comparison in 2018, giving a mean score of 5.7/10 (a difference of +0.2)


It’s also true that in the past five years there’s been a renewed focus on areas such as good governance, reformed fundraising practice and increased efforts to ensure transparency, all of which could be contributing factors. Another reason could be that high-profile scandals in household-name charities may be fading in the collective public memory.

Three years ago, when trust in the sector hit an all-time low, my colleague Aiden Warner wrote this detailed blog on the value of demonstrating impact, telling our stories and being transparent over how money is spent. I think it’s worth revisiting now and could form the basis of a reflective board discussion on the topic of trust.

Uneven impact of the pandemic

A survey of more than 2,700 trustees found that covid-19 has had an uneven impact on the sector, with smaller charities much more likely to have stopped services. A quarter of charities with incomes of less than £10,000 say they were forced to stop all their services, compared to only 3% of charities with incomes of £500,000 or more. In contrast, larger charities were more likely to have moved their existing services online (63%) and to have helped directly with the pandemic (36%).

More than two-thirds (67%) of charities have also said they moved their meetings online during the pandemic. This is no surprise given the rules and constraints, but does raise questions about trustee relationships and how, and if, boards will return to in-person meetings as restrictions lift. Early in the pandemic we ran a webinar exploring the challenges and opportunities of remote meetings and in my blog at the start of the year, I shared some reflections from trustees who joined a board in the pandemic.

From the Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has published its annual report, which highlights its priorities and areas of focus. It shows that regulatory powers were used almost 250 more times in 2020/21 than in 2019/20. It reveals fewer serious incident reports to the Charity Commission and fewer incidences of the commission offering official warnings or trustee disqualification compared with 2019/20.

The regulator has banned a trustee for the longest possible time for what it describes as ‘elaborate deceit’.

In the news

Several members of the board and council at The Vegan Society, including the chair and vice-chair, have quit amid allegations of racism and bullying. Civil Society has covered the story.

Trusts’ registration with HMRC

New rules, which came into force in October 2020, require all UK express trusts to register with HMRC. This includes non-taxable trusts, unless the trust is specifically excluded. Non-taxable trusts will also need to register through the Trust Registration Service. The service is not yet able to accept registrations of non-taxable trusts, but HMRC expect the service to be available for all non-taxable trust registrations in summer 2021. Non-taxable trusts will have approximately 12 months to register.

To help HMRC develop the Trust Registration Service for non-taxable trusts, they’d like to speak to trustees who are interested in working with them to:
• register their non-taxable trusts
• provide feedback to help us develop the service.

If you have a non-taxable trust and would like to participate in this initial registration development period, please contact the service team at HMRC. You can also use this email address if you have questions about non-taxable trust registrations.

Training and events


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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