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Check the Financial Information in Your Annual Return

The Charity Commission recently checked the accuracy of the annual return figures for 3 different sizes of charity, each sample having just over 100 organisations in them.

They found that:

  • 89% of charities with incomes over £25,000 reported accurate income and expenditure figures in their annual returns, compared with just over 60% for charities below the accounts filing threshold for most charities of £25,000
  • just over 80% of charities with incomes over £500,000 reported accurate income and/or expenditure analyses, compared with more than 95% for their balance sheet and charitable funds analyses

Input error (picking the wrong figures out of the accounts) appeared to be the most common reason for inaccurate annual return figures.

To avoid this happening make sure that a person who is familiar with the charity accounts checks the financial information you’ll submit in your annual return.

All the recent charity accounts monitoring reviews are available on their website.

Source: Charity Commission Newsletter

Safeguarding Duties for Trustees

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.

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 more about what and how to report to the Charity Commission.

Source: Charity Commission Newsletter

The 5 Digital Skills To Look For In Your Next Trustee

A key maxim of the Charity Digital Code of Practice is that making the most of digital is not about tools and technical understanding anymore – it’s a governance mindset. Charity leaders need to be confident in how digital can help their charities achieve their goals if they want their organisations to be relevant and sustainable.

Charity Digital News grabbed Zoe Amar, non-profit digital guru and Chair of the Code, who explained the five digital skills that every charity’s trustees and boards should to be able to demonstrate.

1- An understanding of the changes that emerging technology brings

You’ve probably seen the headlines that one in five jobs could be disrupted by automation by 2030. It’s a startling figure and one that all kinds of organisations need to be prepared for, and understand what it will mean for traditional ways of operating.

“Trustees need a good understanding of how emerging technology could disrupt their charity’s business model,” says Amar. “We don’t quite know what this brave new world’s going to look like, but I think an optimistic scenario is that people are released from the burden of doing too much routine work and are actually able to focus on the aspects of the job they’re really passionate about.”

“So what does that mean about the sort of skills that you look for and train people for? Because what we also know about automation is that skills like lateral thinking and emotional intelligence are going to become absolutely paramount as that’s something that is going to be very hard for robots to do.”

2- Data-driven decision making

Handling and analysing data is a significant skills gap in a lot of organisations, according to the latest Charity Digital Skills Report, with 62% of charities rating themselves as fair to low in that area. Could charity trustees take the lead?

“I was talking to someone from a charity at a conference who had just developed a new website and their trustees had got absolutely fixated on one particular idea, assuming that beneficiaries will use the website in this way, but they didn’t have the data to back it up,” says Amar. “So the first thing a charity trustee must ask is the very simple question of ‘am I actually using data to make meaningful decisions?’”

“For example, when I say these things about how our stakeholders behave or what they want or need, can I point to the data which backs that up? Am I using data to stress test my assumptions about people? What’s it telling us and what’s it not telling us? That’s a sign that you’re really starting to think about the value of data to make decisions.”

To read the full Charity Digital News article click here.

Small Charity Bosses Reveal Digital Fears

A survey by Weston Charity Awards reveals concerns about digital issues among small charity bosses.

A third of small charity leaders say that dealing with digital upgrades and IT problems are among the key challenges they face over the coming year.

A survey of 371 heads of small charities found that 33% listed ‘major IT upgrades and failures’ as a key challenge they are set to face in 2019.

This was the fourth most mentioned challenge behind setting up a new partnership (34%), recruiting for a key role (37%) and the top rated challenge, of dealing with new regulations.

Weston Charity Awards, which compiled the survey, says it was “little surprise” to see regulation feature so highly as a concern given the this year’s live date for General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), governing how organisations collect and data.

Digital skills in demand

Improving IT and digital skills is among the top five skills sought by small charity bosses, the survey also found.

This was mentioned by 38% of those surveyed, with 57% looking for fundraising expertise and 51% seeking skills in building partnerships with the commercial sector.

Other skills in demand include branding and communication, mentioned by 38%, and strategy development, cited by 24%.

Weston Charity Awards is run by Garfield Weston Foundation with Pilotlight and is open to charities with an income under £5m in the North of England, Midlands and Wales.

Each of the 20 winning charities gain a year of leadership coaching through Pilotlight and £6,500 in unrestricted funding.

“Small charity leaders are under enormous pressure to steer their organisations through uncertain times,” said Philippa Charles, Director of Garfield Weston Foundation.

“We are delighted to support those showing enormous creativity and resilience through these Awards and to help them reach their goals.”

Source: Charity Digital News

Recognising and Reporting Serious Incidents – Free Workshop

The Association of Chairs in partnership with the Charity Commission are holding a half day free workshop on recognising and reporting serious incidents – what you need to know.

The workshop will be held on Thursday 14th February 2019, 1.30pm at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 6 Centenary Square, Birmingham, B1 2EP. Why not go along to test your knowledge about fraud and safeguarding and to learn how to recognise when an incident is serious and what you must do to report it.

The aim of the workshop is to provide an opportunity to hear about the way in which the Charity Commission views serious incidents and how they handle the reports which are made to them. This is about helping you understand the reasons for reporting a serious incident in your charity.

Whilst the circumstances of incidents vary in type and in the impact they have, Chairs and trustees can work to limit the likelihood of an incident happening and to minimise the impact on the charity when they do.

They will take a closer look at fraud and safeguarding as these are areas where serious incidents are most common.

Representatives of the Charity Commission will talk to us about their approach to these issues and lead group discussions on the issues.

To book your place or for more information click here.

See also: Reporting and avoiding serious incidents – blog post.

Source: Association of Chairs

Updated Guide to Claiming Gift Aid

HMRC have updated their guide to claiming Gift Aid. The guide aims to clearly show charities how to claim tax back on eligible donations, use the right software, complete the schedule, and fill in the form. The guide also features a brand new section about getting the right software to open a schedule spreadsheet.

View the updated guidance by clicking here.

Source: FSI

Charities Not Embracing Digital Identity Checking – Report

Charities are reluctant to use digital technology to improve their ‘weak’ systems for checking the identity of staff, volunteers and service users, according to a study.

The study by digital identity app Yoti found that awareness of digital identity technology among UK charities is low.

Many do not see it as relevant, even though checking the identity of staff, volunteers and services users is a vital part of their work.

A particular concern raised is a reluctance to use digital identification among charities that need to carry out criminal records checks through the Disclosure and Barring Service. This is despite many admitting that their existing systems of checking are poor.

“The need for digital identity solutions were most apparent to those verifying the legal identity of beneficiaries or undertaking DBS checks regularly for staff and volunteers,” states the study.

It adds: “Many of the charities checking legal identity recognised that their processes here were weak but very few were exploring digital identity solutions, or even saw them as an organisational priority.”

Instead of prioritising digital identification much of charities’ technology focus is on fundraising, developing a digital strategy, digital transformation, training and using technology to improve face to face contact with beneficiaries.

Lack of skills a barrier

Many see their lack of knowledge and skills as a barrier to putting in place digital identification.

“They felt that their internal systems were too complicated to change and that digital identity solutions were too advanced to integrate with their current technology. They were also concerned about staff skills, connectivity and their own access to technology,” states the study.

Lack of time and capacity as well as staff costs were other barriers to putting in place digital identification systems among charities.

Research took place between August and October and involved 33 charitable organisations, four digital agencies and 11 support sector organisations across the UK.

The findings from the research are being added to Yoti’s onging social impact strategy, which is looking at the challenges faced in the not for profit sector around identity checks.

Source: Charity Digital News

Expert Tips on Growing Your Legacy Income

Don’t miss out on gifts in wills.

It’s a good time for charities to focus on legacy giving. The UK has an ageing population and those in the Baby Boomer generation — the wealthiest in history — are starting to think about passing on their assets.

The figures look promising: legacy income to UK charities for 2016/2017 was between £2.8 and £2.9 billion, up from £1.8 billion in 2012, according to legacy information provider Smee & Ford. More people are considering charities in their wills: 6.3 percent of all estates in 2016 contained a gift to charity, compared to 4.6 percent in 1997.

But there’s also a big, untapped opportunity. Smee & Ford calculate that if just one percent of those who didn’t leave a gift in their will in 2017 had done so, an additional £97 million could have been raised for charity.

How can fundraisers make the most of this potential? MissionBox heard from experts at the 2018 Legacy Strategy Summit — here’s what we learned.

Make your legacy offer visible
Visibility is key, and there are a number of ways to get the message across that your charity is looking for legacy gifts.

Think about embedding that legacy message across your fundraising activity — this will help to normalise the idea, and prompt supporters to remember you when it comes to writing a will.

Dan Carter, global legacy director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), gives an example: “People are inspired by your cause, so we use that. We’ll use a webinar to introduce the guy heading up our ivory campaign in Malawi and talk about the difference people’s support is making. But in that webinar we’ll also say something about the ways we’re funded — legacies being one of them.”

And consider creating a dedicated ‘gifts in wills’ page on your website. This can highlight the huge difference these gifts make, and let supporters know what practical steps are involved in signing up. Many people find the idea of making a will daunting, so an offer to help draft one can be a big draw.

To read the full MissionBox article click here.

Top 10 Cyber Security Resources for Charities

With all the competing time and budget demands on charities, cyber security is something that’s often not approached very proactively.

This is ironic when you consider the vulnerable nature of a lot of charity service users and the sensitive nature of the data they process.

If charities want to meet the Charity Commissions core responsibilities around cyber security for charities, they can’t afford to leave it to chance or shift all responsibility to someone external – it’s a charity’s trustees and leaders who are culpable if the worst should happen (and it happens more often than it should), so it’s their job to have at least a basic understanding of the vulnerabilities their charities face.

Fortunately, there are a number of easy to digest and low-cost resources on the web where charities can brush up on their knowledge.

Charity Digital News has listed the main hubs of cyber security information for charities below.

NCSC – Cyber security small charities guide

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of national security centre GCHQ, provides advice and support for the public and private sector on avoiding data security threats – they are your go-to source for plain English cyber security information.

Their guide specifically for small charities summarises low cost, simple techniques to improve cyber security within charities, and is available as a handy PDF guide to download, as well as an infographic with just the main points – worth printing and sticking to the wall!

NCSC – 10 steps to cyber security

The NCSC’s  ’10 steps to cyber security’ are not charity-specific but catered towards the boards of all organisations. The government-issued information on this website revolves around ten key steps to a sound security strategy, such as configuring your systems and networks securely, managing user privileges, educating staff, using the right malware protection, and ensuring data is protected when out and about.

There is a high-level PDF as well as more in-depth technical advice sheets on each step, and the site provides a good overview on why protecting your data is a board-level responsibility.

NCSC – Cyber Essentials

Following on from the ‘ten steps’, the government’s Cyber Essentials scheme offers practical, step-by-step advice on what basic controls to put in place to protect your data, jargon free and on a single webpage – there is also a handy checklist at the end to check your progress.

Organisations can apply to be Cyber Essentials certified, working at a pace to suit them, providing certainty to potential partners and service users that their IT is suitably secure (certification is audited every 12 months by the NCSC and costs £300).

To read the full Charity Digital News article click here.

Five Email Automation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Successful charity email marketing automation is all about sending the right message to the right person at the right time. But your subscriber’s inbox will be full of emails jostling for their attention – get one element wrong and you can easily put them off from wanting to hear more from you.

Here are five common mistakes that charities make when planning their email marketing automation, and how to avoid them.

1- Forgetting a welcome email

If you are not immediately sending a welcome email after a sign up, you are missing out on a golden opportunity.

This email will be by far the first most important email you send to your subscribers as you’re giving them a great first impression at the point when your readers are most engaged with your charity.

The ideal welcome email should:
1.Welcome your subscriber.
2.Introduce the reader to the organisation and its mission.
3.Explain what your subscriber will expect to receive from now on.

2- Not using the appropriate tone

All audiences want authenticity and your automated emails have to sound natural, flowing and not robotic. Your automated messages for repetitive tasks need to seem human and personalised, so it appears that you have created each individual message.

Refresh the first email content written. The first set of your campaigns will probably need to be edited and updated as time goes on.

Analyse the messaging and ask yourself which emails are being opened and when and, bearing this in mind, if the emails should be adjusted.

Have a clear call to action in your emails, and focus your email’s text, images, and design to guide your readers toward this outcome and according to their behaviour.

3- Failing to plan appropriately

Planning automation takes time and effort so don’t think a good job can be done in a jiffy. You need to have an objective and balance both your short-term and long-term goals.

Your workflow automated emails need to be mapped and thought out carefully. You need to plan what you want the condition to be for the action to trigger an email to go out, and what responses they will receive when your subscribers interact with your emails.

Plan carefully how you will add in more subscribers and how long the automation should last, how they behaviour with your emails will change the direction of their own email journey and how their automation journey will end.

Dedicate time to find out who is clicking on which link and engage fully by incorporating automated decision points, and take your subscribers down different journeys.

To read the full Charity Digital News article click here.

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