Governance

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Charity Whistle Blowers: How and Why We Value Them

We want to make it easier for charity workers and volunteers to draw serious concerns about their charity to our attention, particularly where the charity’s trustees and senior management team aren’t addressing them.

The intelligence that we get from whistleblowers can be vital in helping us to protect charities from financial loss, safeguarding and many other serious risks.

We know that the decision to blow the whistle can be difficult for the individual because of the tensions it creates over their loyalty to the organisation and their own livelihood and status.

That’s why we’ve been significantly upgrading our support for potential whistle blowers in recent months.

Monday 3 June 2019 brings the next improvement when an advice line specifically for charity whistle blowers opens for business.

Callers to this advice line will receive confidential advice to help them decide what to do about raising a serious concern about their charity, including whether and how to raise their concerns with us.

Created by us (with funding from Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) but – crucially – operated independently by the specialist whistleblowing charity Protect, it’s part of our commitment to improving the confidence of individuals when facing what can otherwise be an isolating and difficult decision about speaking up.

This will be something that we pilot, so we will be closely monitoring and evaluating its impact on the experience of charity whistleblowers and on the amount and quality of intelligence it gives us.

Of course, we have to make sure that the whole process of blowing the whistle to us is effective from start to finish. This means, for example, being able to access at the start clear guidance from us. It also means facing as few barriers as possible to raising the sorts of serious concerns we want to hear.

Details of the whistleblowing process and advice line are available in our guidance: Report serious wrongdoing at a charity as a worker or volunteer.

To read the full Charity Commission Blog click here.

Source: GOV.UK


How to Assess Risk for Charities Working Internationally

Charities working internationally may face particular risks due to their operating environment including the application of financial sanctions, greater levels of corruption or criminal activity and the presence of terrorists, proscribed groups or designated entities.

As a risk-led regulator, we focus on areas of higher risk and we expect the same of trustees.

Risk Assessment Tools

The Charity Commissions International Charities Engagement Team, often get asked what does risk assessment mean in practice and how regularly should it be carried out.

With over 168,000 charities registered in England and Wales and approximately 17,000 operating internationally, there isn’t a one size fits all answer to these questions.

There’s no universally recognised criteria for assessing and determining risk and ultimately you must decide what is in the best interest of the charity.

But, they have produced risk management tools which may help you effectively manage risks and protect your charity from harm in Chapter 2 of the Compliance toolkit – Due diligence and Monitoring the end use of funds. It also includes:

• a risk assessment checklist (which highlights key issues to think about)
• a risk assessment matrix (which assesses the likelihood, impact and potential controls)

Recent events in 2019 demonstrate how practical our PESTLE analysis tool can be when assessing the risk arising from a range of external factors, and their impact on a charity working internationally.

To read the full Charity Commission blog click here.

Source: GOV.UK


The Importance of Safeguarding and Protecting People

Safeguarding is a key governance priority for all trustees, not just those working with groups traditionally considered at risk.

You should read the guidance about safeguarding duties for charity trustees which was recently updated.

We advise you to carry out a thorough review of your charity’s safeguarding governance and management arrangements and performance, if you haven’t done in the last 12 months.

It is also important that you contact us about any safeguarding issues, or serious safeguarding incidents, complaints or allegations which have not previously been reported to us.

Find out about reporting serious incidents in your charity as a trustee.

Find out about reporting serious wrongdoing at a charity as a worker or volunteer.

Source: Charity Commission Newsletter Issue 62

 


Quality and Transparency has Fallen in Charity Accounts

The Charity Commission’s recent review of charity accounts has found that just over half of charities are meeting the public benefit reporting requirements.

Just 70% of trustees’ annual reports and accounts in the public reporting review met the basic benchmark of user requirements.

The quality benchmark was based on recent research into trust in charities which found that ‘ensuring a reasonable proportion of donations make it to the end cause’ and ‘making a positive difference to the cause they work for’ were the most important factors for public trust and confidence in charities.

The main reasons why charities’ accounts submissions did not meet the basic benchmark were:

  • failure to evidence that accounts had been subject to independent scrutiny by an auditor or independent examiner, as required by law
  • not providing meaningful information about their charity’s purposes or the activities carried out to achieve those purposes

Also, just 52% of trustees’ annual reports in the public benefit reporting review met the public benefit reporting requirements.

Trustees are falling short on the requirements to explain activities carried out by the charity to further its purposes for the public benefit, and to provide a public benefit statement.

It is important that you explain the activities your charity undertakes and the impact you have. We want to see charity thrive, so charities must be clearer about who they help and what difference they are making.

Source: Charity Commission Newsletter Issue 62


Major Risks All Charity Board Members Need To Think About – Part 2

Charities need to take risks as well as avoid them, so trustees and managers should draw up a policy to put these in context. This is the second part to last week’s article by the Directory of Social Change.

Compliance

While not a high-level strategic issue, boards do need assurance that this is being dealt with properly. Compliance is not simply a box-ticking exercise. For ABC Charity, the inspection of a children’s nursery school by Ofsted will be crucial to its reputation and will help the board understand whether quality standards are being maintained, providing assurance that the operational team is delivering planned services.

Financial sustainability

This relies heavily on other strategic risk areas. A charity that is failing to demonstrate impact may find it difficult to source funding, for example. And non-compliance may damage reputation and jeopardises funding. But financial sustainability also has other aspects: does the charity have a viable business model, or can funders see the value to them in what the charity does and are they prepared to continue paying for it?

If a charity delivers fantastic services, but the costs are so high that no one is prepared to pay the price, then it is not viable. And with scaling down, some charities are finding that their management and overhead costs are now too high in proportion to their size. So financial sustainability risks are not simply about future funding, but also about the structure of the charity’s finances.

Specific risk

Finally, the board needs to consider whether there is a risk area that is specific to the charity. This may well link back to the risk policy and amplify a particular area of concern that needs to be managed well. The charity may be part of a federation, for example, with risks arising from the actions of others who share your name. Or the charity may be a membership organisation, with risks that the members and management team fall out of step and conflict ensues.

These are the big picture issues often missed off a conventional risk register, because the process tends to focus on the detailed listing of risks in various categories. To manage risk well, your charity’s board needs to engage in regular discussions with senior managers about the big five.

Source: Directory of Social Change


The Gap Centre would like to appoint a Company Secretary

The Gap Centre is a vibrant, thriving church-related charity at the very heart of West Bromwich. The Centre offers child care and other children-related facilities, together with youth and community work.

The role of Secretary is to support the Chair and is primarily an administrative role. It will be your responsibility to ensure the Board of Directors conducts itself professionally and effectively and provides sound governance of the charity.

This is a voluntary position with expenses paid, where required.

Main Responsibilities include:
• Responsible for the smooth and efficient running of meetings
• Work collaboratively with the Chair to plan, produce and circulate agendas and supporting papers for Directors meetings.
• Taking minutes and circulating to all Directors
• Checking that Directors and staff have carried out actions agreed at meetings
• Support members in fulfilling their duties and responsibilities, organising induction and ongoing training.

Person Specification:
• Experience of undertaking administrative tasks and minute-taking
• Excellent organisational ability and the ability to work collaboratively and provide support to other committee members&
• Knowledge or experience of business and committee procedures
• Experience of senior management or leadership
• Good independent judgement and ability to think creatively
• Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate clearly both in person and in written form and provide timely advice
• Understanding and acceptance of the legal duties, responsibilities and liabilities of Directors

Time Commitment and Location:
• To attend a quarterly Board Meeting at The Gap Centre in West Bromwich, or the occasional away day at alternative sites.
• Pre and post board meeting administration.

For further information or to discuss the role, please email Les Trumpeter at ltrumpeter@selectlifestyles.co.uk.


Strategy as a Collective Responsibility

Strengthening your Organisation –  finance, risk and strategy these three areas are at the heart of good governance.

Again, and again, strategy came up as a big issue for many of the smaller charity Chairs. For example, 54% of Chairs on The Association of Chairs webinars said that strategy development was their key concern.

The Charity Governance Code makes it clear that the board has a collective responsibility ‘for ensuring the charity has a clear and relevant set of aims and an appropriate strategy for achieving them’ (p10.)

Chairs of smaller charities were asked to reflect on the nature of their board’s role in this process. Depending on an organisation’s size and structure, trustees need to strike the right balance in terms of their involvement in the strategy development process. An over-involved board can leave staff and / or operational volunteers feeling side-lined or undermined. An un-involved or too distant board will not be fulfilling its legal responsibilities and can leave staff and / or volunteers feeling unclear about the organisation’s priorities and direction of travel.

Common Issues Around Strategy Development

Discussions raised a number of common issues which Chairs said they were facing. Some referred to skills gaps within the team, others were based on writing the strategy itself. For example, in the webinars, the following concerns were raised:

•How do we get our trustees who are more comfortable focusing on operational matters, to focus on strategic issues?
•Our external environment is rapidly changing. How can we develop a strategy which will usefully drive our work?
•How can we recruit trustees with the right skills and knowledge to make strategic decisions?
•How are we going to know whether we are achieving our strategic objectives?
•Who should lead on the process? Me as Chair or the Chief Executive?

Do these concerns sound familiar to you?

Tips on Managing the Development Process

During the webinars, delegates shared tools and tips from their own experience of chairing an organisation through a period of strategic review.

Some delegates said that they had organised board meetings just looking at strategy, that trying to do it during a meeting with other business was distracting. Many reported that they had used an external facilitator to lead creative thinking sessions, away days or workshops. They said that it helped if the agenda for these sessions was carefully planned.

Some said that they had found strategic planning tools such as PEST analysis and Three Circles Analysis useful to help make sure the conversation was strategic not operational.

Some Chairs said that had set up separate working groups to do specific research or tasks and report back to the board. They said that working groups operated well when they drew on the knowledge and experience of individual trustees. Where gaps in knowledge and experience were identified, some Chairs had brought in outside expertise. NB If you are thinking of doing this, remember to check your constitution to make sure working groups can include non-trustees.

One said: “be clear about who you are going to involve in the process and how.” Check out Beacon’s strategic planning grid (available in our library of module 2 resources) to help with this.

Some Chairs mentioned that in order to monitor progress they had operationalised their strategic objectives. Having a simple red, amber, green traffic light system had helped trustees monitor performance effectively.

Tips on Creating a Strategy

Some of our Chairs stressed that it was important to recognise that strategy development is a dynamic process and that the strategy you produce should be flexible to deal with unexpected challenges and opportunities.

Others said that the strategy process had been used to remind the board of the charitable objectives and it had forced them to check whether the objectives were still fit for purpose. “Given the national political context within which we are working, do we need to broaden or reduce the parameters within which we are working?”

One highlighted the importance of seeing the process of developing the organisation’s strategy as an opportunity rather than a challenge.

Source: Association of Chairs


The Chair’s Role in Building a Positive Working Culture

How would you describe the working culture at your organisation? Does it enable people to contribute and thrive? Is it the same across the organisation from top to bottom and across different teams? Do the board and senior management team value the same behaviours and promote a consistent, constructive culture? Do you have policies and systems that allow you to deal with problems if they occur?

A negative culture can have a huge impact on the productivity and stability of the organisation. And on everyone’s wellbeing. Conversely, a productive culture that values curiosity and constructive challenge at every level means that people will feel safe and secure enough to speak their minds, challenge norms, be innovative and, if necessary, challenge behaviours.

Knowing your culture

The culture of an organisation is hard to define and even harder to change. It’s easier to feel than see. It is the sum of many different behaviours and attitudes. It’s “the way we do things around here”. But it’s also “the way we think around here.” This can be positive, or badly oppressive. The example set at the top is critical, especially by the board and by senior staff (if you have them). If your charity has a lot of staff or volunteers it can be particularly hard to be in touch with how it feels to be involved in your organisation.

To read the full Association of Chairs article click here.

Source: Association of Chairs


How Clubs Can Build Simple and Effective Risk Assessments

Risk assessments are the simplest and most effective way for organisations of all sizes to control and mitigate obvious dangers. However, too often they are treated as a box-ticking exercise.

Common misconceptions – for example, that risk assessments are a time-consuming chore, or that they only need to be completed once a year – can limit their effectiveness. In this article, we consider the key elements of building a risk assessment.

What are risk assessments for and what should they cover?

Risk assessments are a simple way of identifying potential hazards that could put individuals and property at risk. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach – they should be tailored to what your club does and the particular risks you could face.

However, every risk assessment should:
•Identify potential hazards
•Identify who or what could be most at risk from these hazards
•List measures being taken to address hazards and identify any additional action needed
•Allocate responsibility for risk improvement actions, with clear timescales

You should also review your risk assessment processes following any serious incident, such as a fire, flood or safeguarding incident.

How detailed should risk assessments be?

A risk assessment does not always have to be a lengthy document. The important thing is to have a straightforward system to identify and prioritise risks, and to record any actions taken to mitigate them.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides a number of useful resources and tools that can help clubs develop robust risk assessments.

Who should carry out risk assessments?

You should appoint a ‘competent person’ to oversee the process. A competent person is defined by the HSE as “someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety.”

This does not necessarily mean somebody who has undergone specialist training or received any formal qualifications in health and safety. The important thing is that whoever you entrust to carry out your risk assessments is aware of best practice and can commit to overseeing the process.

How should risk assessments be recorded?

A logbook is a simple way to keep a record of your risk assessments and any actions taken to mitigate risks.

Logbooks should include space to record the dates and times of assessments or training, and brief details of what was covered. If any potential hazards are identified, it is important to note any action taken to reduce or eliminate the risk.

Keeping it simple

Building a risk assessment does not have to be a complicated or time-consuming process.

You can create specific risk assessments that identify and address the hazards particular to your club. By regularly reviewing these documents as your circumstances change, you could go a long way to mitigating some of the biggest risks your club could face.

The HSE provides a straightforward risk assessment template that you can tailor to your club’s particular needs.

Source: Zurich Municipal


Company Secretary required at The GAP Centre

The GAP Christian Family Centre is a friendly community centre in Hargate Lane, West Bromwich, from which many services are run.  The Centre is seeking to recruit a Company Secretary.

This is primarily an administrative role. You will organise the agenda for Directors’ meetings, take minutes and ensure all relevant compliance information is accurately maintained, and action points followed up. One of your main tasks will be to support the Chair, as you make sure the Board of Directors conducts itself professionally and effectively and provide sound governance of the Charity.

To see the person spec and a comprehensive list of the main responsibilities, click here. Interested? Please email Les Trumpeter on l_trumpeter@hotmail.com.

This is a voluntary position with expenses paid, where required.


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