Governance round-up: March 2022

Charities supporting Ukraine

Earlier this month, my colleague Alex posted a blog explaining how charities and civil society can support Ukraine. Our sector is often at the forefront of the response to global issues, and in the past few weeks we’ve seen voluntary organisations across the world come together in support of the Ukrainian people and all those affected by the war.

Charity boards who want to be part of this effort should ensure that they’re thoughtful in their action, and keep in mind their charitable objects and powers. There are many ways that organisations can support our collective effort through direct action, donations, and campaigning, but trustees must be mindful of their duties when deciding how to participate.

If you would like to contribute the support effort in Ukraine, but you’re not sure of your powers as a trustee, the Charity Commission has published new guidance for charities and trustees on supporting Ukraine.

Charities Act 2022

The Charities Act 2022 received royal assent at the end of February, bringing into law the recommendations from the Law Commission’s 2017 report, Technical Issues in Charity Law. This law amends a number of key sections of the Charities Act 2011, one of the primary pieces of legislation for charities in England and Wales.

The new Act aims to reduce bureaucracy and make it easier for charities to operate. It does this by allowing for:

  • more straightforward amendment of governing documents where the Charity Commission needs to approve the change – the same test will now apply to all charities, rather than different tests for different forms
  • reduced rules around disposal of property, ex gratia payments, and charity mergers
  • flexibility in the way that charities can use permanently endowed funds.

If the changes in the Charities Act affect your organisation we recommend seeking specialist legal advice.

Working with non-charities

Chelsea FC Foundation found themselves in the spotlight earlier this month when reports emerged that the football club was being put under ‘stewardship’ of the charity. The decision raised the question of whether that stewardship is within the purpose and objects of the foundation. The trustees also shared that they hadn’t formally agreed to the stewardship arrangement prior to the announcement.

The Charity Commission has clear guidance for charities with a connection to a non-charitable organisation, which sets out how to manage risks and what to do if something goes wrong.

In the news

Small Charity Coalition Helpdesk

NCVO and the FSI are collaborating to take forward the services of the Small Charity Coalition, which will close its doors this month. 92% of our members are considered to be small charities, and so we’re excited to be able to offer an even greater level of support to both organisations and trustees.

This week we released full details of the NCVO and FSI partnership.

Charity Commission chair

The government has announced Orlando Fraser as the preferred candidate for the next chair of the Charity Commission. This is a vital role for our sector, and we know how important open and transparent recruitment processes are for charities and trustees. We’re therefore disappointed that the process was not re-run in full and have concerns about Orlando Fraser’s party-political links. However, we look forward to a final appointment into this vital role.

We released a full press statement with ACEVO on the announcement.

Alternative cancer therapies organisation to wind up

In 2018 the Charity Commission undertook consultation on the charity status of alternative therapy providers, concluding in a change to the information requested by the Commission to make sure that these providers fully meet the two tests for charitable status. It is a requirement that charities can prove their public benefit and limit any potential for harm. This month the Gerson Support Group trustees have initiated the process of winding up the organisation, after the regulator raised concerns about the organisation’s alternative therapy claims.

You can read more on the Charity Commission press release.

NCVO chief exec

This month we were pleased to announce that Sarah Vibert has been appointed as our CEO. The appointment process was led by NCVO’s chair of trustees, Dr Priya Singh, with support from other trustees, independent sector leaders, and representatives from NCVO’s staff and 17,000+ strong charity membership.

You can read more about Sarah on our full announcement.

Training and events

Sally Stephens is an NCVO governance consultant. For more regular updates follow @Sally_Steph or @NCVO on Twitter. 

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Sally works with charities to provide governance advice and board reviews, as well as delivering training on trusteeship and board effectiveness. She previously worked in an in-house governance support role, leading on board development and strategy.

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