“Can we still hold our AGM online?” and other such matters – updated Charity Commission guidance
30 Apr 2021 by Stuart Ashmore
As we are all aware, the government introduced a national lockdown across England in January 2021. (In Wales, the government introduced alert level 4 restrictions in December 2020.)
These restrictions mean if you can, you should hold trustee or member meetings online or by telephone (see the section below on how to do this). However, if you cannot do this, you can hold trustee or members’ meetings in person if this is necessary to provide voluntary or charitable services.
The Charity Commission has updated its Covid-19 guidance for the charity sector and some of the headlines are as follows:
AGMs and other meetings: postponing or cancelling meetings
With the current restrictions in place (under the government’s ‘roadmap’), trustees need to consider how and if they can hold meetings.
Trustees need to check if their charity’s governing document allows them to hold meetings online or by telephone. Where it does not, an alternative may be to amend it to allow meetings to be held in this way.
The Charity Commission does recognise that for some charities virtual meetings are not a viable solution, nor are socially distanced face-to-face meetings. In such instances trustees may consider they have no choice but to cancel or postpone their AGMs and other critical meetings.
If such a decision is considered necessary, trustees should follow any rules in their charity’s governing document that allow for postponement, adjournment or cancellation. If there are no such rules, but they decide that this is still the best course of action for their charity in the current circumstances, they should record the reasons for this decision to demonstrate good governance of their charity. This is particularly important if it is not possible to hold an AGM, which may make it difficult for the annual reports and accounts to be finalised.
Holding meetings online or by telephone
As outlined above, it may be difficult to hold face-to-face meetings in the current circumstances. Some charities have clauses in their governing documents that allow them to meet virtually or to use telephone facilities, so trustees are advised to check their governing document and see if they can make amendments themselves to facilitate changes as to how or when meetings are held.
Generally, if there is no such clause in the governing document and they decide to hold meetings over the phone or using digital solutions, the Charity Commission will understand. However, any such decision(s) should be recorded in order to demonstrate good charity governance. This is all the more important because the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 provisions, which permitted charitable companies and CIOs to hold AGMs and other members’ meetings online regardless of their governing documents, ended on 30 March 2021.
If you are unsure of your own organisation’s position, why not get in contact with SCVO to see if we can help resolve your query/situation? Drop us a line to: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0121 525 1127.