Good Governance, it’s not an option
“Good governance in charities is not an optional extra, or a bureaucratic detail. Good governance is what underpins the delivery of a charity’s purposes to the high standards expected by the public.”
This was a statement given by David Holdsworth, Registrar of Charities for England and Wales and Deputy Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, when talking on the wider issues of governance in charities after he had addressed the governance failures within the RSPCA.
Whilst the most damning comments were reserved for the RSPCA and its trustees, this statement delivered a stark reminder to trustees of all charities that they must deliver the highest standards of governance and ensure that this is a priority.
The Charity Commission have made no secret that they are keen to see an improvement in the way charities are governed, as so often a poorly performing charity is a direct result of poor governance.
It is just over a year since the Charity Governance Code was updated, so by now all trustees should be familiar with this and understand their roles and responsibilities to the charity. The problem is, each individual trustee may read the code and understand their role, but has the overall effectiveness of the Board ever been challenged? Do your trustees function efficiently as a Board, with sufficient knowledge and experience to make informed decisions?
If you’re not sure if your Board is operating effectively, then perhaps it’s time to conduct a governance review. This can be performed in various ways, whether it is a trustee away day, a simple questionnaire or perhaps having a third party sit in on meetings and review your structures. All of these are likely to identify areas for improvement and provide a clear action plan that will help to improve the governance of the charity and, after all, it’s better that you find the areas of improvement yourself than have them found as a result of Charity Commission investigation.
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