“With great power comes great responsibility” even in a small community group
In the last year there has been so much debate in the national voluntary sector journals and blogs about the Charities Act Review, payment of trustees, fines for late submission of accounts to the Charity Commission, regulation of fundraising and trustee development and support.
It’s obvious the spotlight is upon the sector as the country is strapped for cash and funders are keen to know that money is going to be put to good use in well governed organisations. Trustee are regularly being encouraged by umbrella bodies to recognise the importance of impact assessment, social investment and evidencing need in their organisations.
It’s interesting reading the Charity Commission’s report Charities Back on Track 2011-12 but the findings are not a big surprise if you’re involved in supporting organisations. Over half of the investigations completed by the Charity Commission in 2011-12 involved concerns about poor governance or poor trusteeship, including concerns about breaches of governing document, unmanaged conflicts of interest, and concerns about fundraising governance.
Now, you may think this doesn’t apply to your group. But ask yourself these questions. Has everyone on the committee read the constitution? How did the people on the board get recruited? How do you know all the money from your quiz night fundraiser was banked? Sometimes we just assume everything is working well but as a trustee we have a duty as an individual and collectively to ensure the checks and balances are there.
For some this might feel like an extra burden upon the trustees. But maybe these trustees need to be reminded that the Charity Commission says it is their responsibility to ensure their group “is solvent, well-run, and delivering the charitable outcomes for the benefit of the public for which it has been set up”.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom because there are rewards for getting it right including more success with funding, increased recognition for the benefit to the community, time saved and services delivered by attracting efficient and experienced volunteers. And there is support locally, on the web and many, many great examples of groups of all sizes both locally and nationally who can inspire good practice and will want to tell you about it.