Governance round-up: December 2021

Looking back at 2021

It’s been another challenging year for the voluntary sector, but charities and their boards have once again demonstrated incredible adaptability and resilience.

In our governance round-ups we’ve explored a range of topics and updates intended to help boards navigate the challenges of governing in times of uncertainty. I hope you’ve found these updates useful. I thought I’d start December’s round-up with some highlights from the content we’ve shared in last 12 months:

New Charity Commission chair resigns

Martin Thomas was appointed as the next chair of the Charity Commission in early December, only to resign last week before taking the role.

Thomas withdrew from the role after it came to light that formal complaints were made against him regarding ‘inappropriate behaviour’ while he was chair at Women for Women International. One of these complaints was reported as a ‘serious incident’ to the Charity Commission.

In their reporting, The Times highlighted Thomas’s links to the prime minister and called into question the impartiality of the appointment. Civil Society also covered the story.

This raises serious questions about the due diligence conducted and the integrity of the appointment process.

At NCVO we want to see a strong, credible and impartial Charity Commission, capable of fulfilling its role regulating our sector. This must include the chair who should be beyond reproach. The sector needs to have trust and confidence in the chair from day one, and that requires a robust recruitment process.

Given the shortcomings in this process we are now calling on the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to restart the recruitment from scratch. You can read our full immediate response in this twitter thread.

Cyber security toolkit

During the covid-19 pandemic, the charity sector has become even more reliant on the use of digital technology to function and govern. In fact, a survey by Charity Bank last year said that eight out of 10 charities have found new ways to use technology as they look to adapt to the ‘new normal’ amid the pandemic.

However, this shift has meant the risks associated with cyber security and cyber fraud have also increased. Good cyber security therefore protects a charity’s ability to function.

To help embed this, we wanted to re-share the National Cyber Security Centre’s Cyber Security toolkit. The toolkit is specifically designed for boards and offers a practical approach to managing cyber security risks.

In the news

Covid-19 vaccination as a condition of employment and volunteering

The government recently announced that, from April 2022, regulations will be put in place which mean only fully vaccinated staff and volunteers will be allowed to deliver Care Quality Commission regulated services, with limited exceptions. Trustees of organisations subject to these regulations will need to take steps to plan for these changes.

My colleague Catherine has written a blog about the changes and how organisations can prepare.

Impact of covid-19 on charities: Charity Commission research

The Charity Commission has released research exploring the impact of the pandemic on the sector. There are no big surprises – the research shows that many charities:

  • saw reduced income
  • adapted their services
  • dipped into reserves to maintain operations.

Although the Charity Commission says it’s hard to draw general lessons given the diversity of the sector, it’s shared the following take-aways for charity leaders.

  • Always be led by your charity’s purposes and the best interests of those you exist to serve.
  • Never avoid or delay tough decisions.
  • Recognise that the way you make and communicate decisions can be as important as the decisions you make.

You may want to share this research with your board if you’re doing any work reflecting on your charity’s response to the pandemic.

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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