Good governance or the lack of it has been much in the news over recent months.  Here are five points charity trustees should always have in the forefront of their minds when decision-making:-

  1. Know your governing document – this sets out limits on what the charity can and cannot do and provide an important legal framework.  You should ensure:-
  • You know what you are set up to do – your charitable objects and that you are achieving those;
  • The rules under which you operate e.g. how trustees are appointed, whether e-mail voting is permitted and power to delegate etc;
  • Make sure your governing document is fit for purpose in the modern world (you should look at reviewing it every five years or so to ensure it is still working) NB you will need Charity Commission prior approval to change certain key aspects of the governing document.
  1. Know your role in the charity and those of others:-
  • Ensure you understand charity trustees’ duties;
  • Know which hat you are wearing if you have a number of roles e.g. if you are both a member and trustee;
  • Know your employees and your obligations to them;
  • Know your volunteers and the difference to being an employee and what your legal obligations are to them;
  • Know the limits of delegated power whether to sub-committees of the board or members of staff and have a clear reporting procedure.
  1. Beware of and deal appropriately with conflicts of interest/loyalty:-
  • Always think how does this look to the outside world and consider the perception as well as the reality of the situation;
  • Ensure you have structures in place to identify conflicts of interest;
  • Is a conflict of interest one that could be managed and management of which is permitted by your governing document? Is it in the best interests of the charity that the person with a conflict of interest steps down to prevent a conflict which cannot be managed?
  1. Be aware of the needs of the beneficiaries of the charity:-
  • Safeguarding must always be a key priority, particularly where dealing with children or vulnerable adults;
  • Research, obtain and review outcomes of your work amongst beneficiaries;
  • Consult with them as they may have valuable insight into your work.
  1. Remember you are not alone
  • Have regard to the Charity Commission guidance
  • take professional advice where needed or you are unsure.
  • Remember you are not expected to know all the answers and it is appropriate for you to take advice and obtain assistance.

A little money spent on advice at an early stage can save you money in the long-term.

If you have any questions please contact 01726 74433 or enquiries@stephens-scown.co.uk.