Are virtual charity meetings an alternative to in-person meetings and events?

Coronavirus is having a major impact on charity events. The Government’s guidance on social distancing may lead to some charities having no choice but to decide to cancel or postpone their AGMs and other key meetings, as well as many normal fundraising activities.

However, in light of the recent relaxation in regulation and depending on the governance structure of the charity, there is some flexibility allowing charities to proceed with AGMs and virtual meetings.

How to know if you can hold virtual charity meetings

Firstly, charities should consult their governing document to see if there are any powers to hold meetings virtually or by telephone facilities. If there are no powers for virtual meetings, trustees may consider it appropriate to revise their governing document to facilitate changes on how and when meetings can be held.

The new Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Extension of the Relevant Period) Regulations 2020 allows charitable companies and CIOs to hold virtual AGMs regardless of the powers contained in their governing documents until 30 March 2021.

How to run meetings and AGMs online

Members entitled to attend the meeting must still be allowed to vote and charities must ensure they engage appropriately with members and comply with any notice and quorum requirements in their governing document.

For unincorporated charities the Charity Commission has issued guidance which states that charities can proceed with virtual meetings and AGMs on the basis that they clearly document the rationale to hold the meeting remotely and record all decision making to demonstrate good governance.

We would recommend that all charities use this time to reflect on their current governance arrangements and whether permanent changes should be made to facilitate virtual meetings in the future.