Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Updated version of the Charity Governance Code has been published

The updated version of the Charity Governance Code has been published, setting out higher standards and urging larger charities to carry out external reviews every three years. 
Other key recommendations include increasing diversity on boards, a limit of nine years for trustee terms unless a good reason is given, more oversight of subsidiaries and a stronger emphasis on the role of the chair. Full details of the code are available on a new website. 

A new online portal to provide trustees with tailored guidance will launch by the end of December 2017

The new charity services portal is intended to be a “one stop shop” that will make it easier for charities to “self serve” and track progress on any applications to the Commission, “a bit like Parcelforce”.  It will also ensure that “guidance and content is tailored” depending on the type and size of charity. 

Another digital service being tested at the moment is one which will make it possible to change a charity’s name in 24 hours, where currently it takes an average of 33 days. 

To read more Click here

Friday, 7 July 2017

Report on the recent Charity Commission event in Cardiff

On Thursday the 29th of June, the Charity Commission held an event at Cardiff City Stadium to inform charity trustees and charity advisers about recent changes and future developments in relation to how the Commission handles its business.

Given the recent election debates and press coverage concerning the impact of austerity on public services, the event highlighted some interesting facts in regard to the consequences of the funding squeeze for both the Commission and the sector that it both regulates and seeks to support.

The headline grabbing figure is the depth of the cut in funding for the Commission, which has taken a 50% hit, down from £40m a year to £20m. The Commission currently regulates 172,000 charities, with a further 5,000 requests for registration being received every year. In all some 700,000 trustees sit on the governing bodies of registered charities. The workload of staff requires them to deal with 130,000 enquiries per year - something like 6,500 responses being made every month by a workforce totalling 300 staff across all the divisions within the Commission.

To cushion such a draconian cut in funding, the Commission was able to secure a one off payment of £8m, which was earmarked for a programme of transformation designed to make the regulatory function of the Commission much more user friendly and simple. As David Holdsworth (Head of Operations at the Charity Commission) was at pains to point out, the aim was to bring a much more 'service provision' orientation to the Commission, placing the user at the heart of the service and recognising that, 'Regulation works best if it is easy and straightforward to comply'.


David Holdworth talks transformation

In practice this means that before long Charities will be able to comply with all their regulatory requirements on line through a new Commission portal that will set up a specific 'self service' user area for each charity. When logged into their area, as well as statutory returns and accounts, nominated trustees or agents will be able to manage trustee details, submit amendments to governing documents or request name changes to charities. A progress tracker will monitor progress towards compliance and there will also be suggestions of guidance tailored to the area of benefit of the charity.

As well as high tech innovations, the Commission is also overhauling its guidance and simplifying the way it is presented - a process described by Nick Mott (Head of Policy Development, Guidance and Review) as a Dip - Swim - Dive approach - where Dip relates to info-graphics / information sheets, Swim to more in depth guidance based on case work and Dive to weigthy tomes of legal analysis.

It is hoped that the benefits of the new services will be a speeding up in the turn around of actions. As a result of changes already unveiled, the time taken to enroll a charity has already gone down from on average 90 days to 45, and the amount of direct communication required with applicants has fallen by 23%.

To take name changes as another example - the Commission receives on average 2,500 requests to change or amend names of charities each year - a process that usually takes 33 days to effect (presumably to allow time for the reading of the current 133 pages of guidance notes on this topic!). Under the new automated system, providing the name is acceptable and not already used by another charity, the name change can be approved in 24hrs!

Whilst the Commission hopes to make productivity savings from the transformation process, it is also looking at ways of boosting the funding it receives, which may well result in the introduction of fees to charities. At present, thinking envisages fees only being charged on charities with income in excess of £100,000, and there would be a graduated scale of fees against income, ranging from £75 to £1,750. As yet the charging of fees is only under initial discussion with Government, and will be subject to a full consultation with the sector.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Funding Preference Service and Fundraising

Short notice, but you may not have heard that the WCVA is holding a series of events looking at fundraising - and particularly the potential implications of the new Funding Preference Service (launching today).

For those of you who haven't yet come across the Funding Preference Service, it is being launched by the Fund Raising Regulator and is designed to allow donors to opt out of receiving communications on charity campaigns. In short, all charities with an income over £100,000 a year have to proactively register with the service. A donor who wishes to stop receiving communications can then search for the charity in question on the Preference Service and chose a number of means (such as text messaging, e-mail, phone or post) to opt out of communications.

At present there is no requirement for smaller charities, conducting more localised campaigns, to register with the Service, but such charities may receive a stop notice if a donor requests to no longer receive your communications through the Regulator. In this instance your charity will be duty bound to follow the advice supplied and remove the donor from your contact database.

The only action required of small charities at present is to ensure that your charity's contact details, held by the Charity Commission, are up to date - so that the Regulator can contact you if a stop notice is received.

More information on the Funding Preference Service can be found on the Funding Regulators Blog here.

For further information on the WCVA fund raising event, which is taking place at the PAVO offices in Llandrindod Wells this coming Monday (10th July) see the poster here. You can book your place via the link here.





Friday, 23 June 2017

Charity Commission Compliance, Monitoring and Investigation - latest stats published

The Charity Commission has just published its latest set of statistics analysing its casework. The analysis is broken down according to the information supplied by charities on their annual returns - such as their purpose, beneficiaries, income and years on the register.

This seems to be done primarily as a monitoring process to check that the Commission is being even handed in its casework across the whole gamut of the charity sector.

The present and past statistics can be found on the Commissions site here.

They give some interesting insight into the problems that charities encounter, from failure to comply with statutory reporting duties (some 1172 cases opened in the last year) to more serious breaches of charity law calling forth monitoring (435 cases) or full blown investigations (187 cases).

From the statistics it appears that older charities are more prone to have problems than newer ones - with 64% of the compliance issues and 33% of the monitoring cases being related to charities over ten years old - perhaps a reflection upon 'we have always done it this way' not necessarily being the 'right way'....

The size of a charity seems to have less impact than its age. Though charities with incomes over £500k make up 42% of the compliance cases, there is a fairly equal spread across the other casework categories, Small charities, with turnovers under £25k, which you would perhaps expect to be well represented due to capacity issues in meeting the regularity requirement, form less than a fifth of compliance and less then a tenth of investigation cases, though they do form a quarter of all monitoring cases.

But perhaps what the statistics most suggest is that all charities, serving all types of beneficiaries and working in all different sectors are prone to experience difficulties in complying with charity law at some point. This is nothing to be ashamed off, as long as the problem that caused it is addressed to prevent non compliance turning into monitoring and a full blown inquiry that carries sanction.



Meet the Charity Commission

The Charity Commission is holding its next public meeting on the 29th June 2017 at the Cardiff City Stadium.
William Shawcross (Chairman) and Eryl Besse (Deputy Chairman) will be there to open the meeting, which will include a presentation from the Chief Operating Officer, David Holdsworth, on the digital transformation of the Commission. 
The meeting will focus on guiding trustees and their charities through data and digital challenges, will provide updates on key guidance for trustees, and will highlight important lessons arising from the Commission's casework. 
The event is free of charge and charity trustees, employees and advisers are urged to attend.
You can register to attend through Eventbrite
Places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis and are limited to 2 attendees per organisation
For more details see the Commission's website here.

Monday, 19 June 2017

KNIGHTON OUTREACH 27-6-2017

We will be coming to Knighton on:

Tuesday 27th June 2017
10.30 am - 2 pm
Knighton Community Support Offices

Appointments must be booked by phoning 01597 822191.

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Introducing PAVO's new Thriving Third Sector Development Officer.

Following the departure of Sally Yigit from PAVO at the beginning of April, a new officer has been appointed to deliver the Thriving Third Sector programme, which aims to assist voluntary organisations across Powys tackle issues of governance and sustainability.

The new post holder is Nick Venti, who has worked extensively in the Third Sector in Powys over the past fourteen years, both as a project officer on a number of community projects and as a trustee and director of local charities and third sector organisations.

 

Nick's role is primarily to facilitate a process of organisational review. This can mean looking at how an organisation functions against its governing document or the make up and sustainability of the trustee board. Does the need for which the organisation was originally set up still exist - or has it achieved its aim or been diverted away from delivering against its primary purpose? It can mean looking at the financial arrangements of the organisation to ensure that it has strategies in place to meet its costs. Or it could be a case of preparing an organisation for new challenges, such as taking on the delivery of new services, or the running of a community asset.

Whatever the potential challenges facing an organisation, the project aims to provide proactive help that will allow trustees and directors see their way to managed solutions, preferably before real problems develop.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of your organisations governance or sustainability, or are simple interested in taking an organisational health check, then contacting Nick is a good place to start.

He can be reached on 01686 626 220 or via e-mail at: nick.venti@pavo.org.uk


Wednesday, 14 June 2017

RSPCA - no charity is too big to get into trouble

Following the loss of their chief executive officer last week, the RSPCA is coming under fire from the Charity Commission, which is warning the charity that it needs to urgently improve its governance or face regulatory action.

The full story of what is happening at one of Britain's biggest charities can be found at Civil Society News, but in short it is clear that the governance of the organisation is falling below expected standards.

It appears that the charity have been trying to grapple with its problems, having recently commissioned a review in order 'to ensure that the governance structure is fit for purpose and best placed to face the challenges of the future.'

The review, undertaken on behalf of the society by Crowe Clarke Whitehall LLP, has some interesting conclusions that throw light on the difficulties all organisations experience in managing change.

  • The Society is facing much change and with any change effort there are often many sensitivities and tensions to be aware of. 
  • It is clear from those we interviewed and spoke to that this Governance Review has generated high expectations and perhaps some nervousness.
  • There is a perception that there has been little constructive action and poor follow through on past initiatives.
  • Individuals must be ready to do this (draw a line under the perceived problems of the past) and move on, focusing on building the “modern governance structure”. 
  • This requires people to look forward rather than at the past and to put aside the issues of the past. 
  • The tone at the top is very important and if the Society is to really benefit from this review Council must work together cohesively and accept differences of opinion, build trust and respect amongst its members and with management.

In conducting the review, the consultants engaged with the Society's Trustees around the Hallmarks of an Effective Charity, the Charity Commission guidance that 'sets out the standards that will help trustees to improve the effectiveness of their charity.

The six hallmarks are:

  1. Clear about its purposes and direction - An effective charity is clear about its purposes, mission and values and uses them to direct all aspects of its work.
  2.  A strong board - An effective charity is run by a clearly identifiable board or trustee body that has the right balance of skills and experience, acts in the best interests of the charity and its beneficiaries, understands its responsibilities and has systems in place to exercise them properly.
  3. Fit for purpose - The structure, policies and procedures of an effective charity enable it to achieve its purposes and mission and deliver its services efficiently.
  4. Learning and improving - An effective charity is always seeking to improve its performance and efficiency, and to learn new and better ways of delivering its purposes. A charity’s assessment of its performance, and of the impact and outcomes of its work, will feed into its planning processes and will influence its future direction.
  5. Financially sound and prudent - An effective charity has the financial and other resources needed to deliver its purposes and mission, and controls and uses them so as to achieve its potential.
  6. Accountable and transparent - An effective charity is accountable to the public and others with an interest in the charity in a way that is transparent and understandable.

The Society's Trustees and senior leadership team were asked to score the Society against the Hallmarks, and this was followed up by a survey of the Society's membership who were asked to score their perceptions of the charities performance against key assertions from the Hallmarks.

The importance of having yardsticks or 'Hallmarks' against which to self assess performance is clear. and PAVO has developed its own organisational 'Health Check' - the Here and Now tool - which can provide a focus for reflection around organisational governance, finance, planning,strategy and communications.

The moral of this story is that all organisations - whatever their size - are well advised to reflect on their performance, and preferably before the wheels start coming off the waggon...

If you would like to talk to PAVO about undertaking the Here and Now tool within your organisation, contact our development team on 01597 822 191

Friday, 2 June 2017

A well run charity does not need to build up large reserves – it needs to manage its strategic risks well.

Whenever a charity fails, there are comments that the reserves were inadequate. Measures often relate the level of reserves to the income of the charity. But this is based on the false premise that reserve levels should be based on a formula, whereas the reserves policy should be based on the risks facing the charity.

Click here to read the entire article

Charities spend too little on necessary support for staff

Spend on need, not perception


"Trustees and management have often shied away from making investment decisions because they believe that it will impact negatively on how they are perceived," the report says. “This is due to the misleading belief that charities can be measured and compared by looking at their expenditure and the income raised.
“This belief has resulted in underinvestment in vital areas such as information technology, skills training, income generating processes and governance and management. Charities are also to blame by perpetuating the myth that reduced overheads mean the charity is more effective. This leads to a vicious cycle of underinvestment and this can actually lead to a deterioration in a charity’s performance.
"Charities should be ready to make the necessary investment in infrastructure based on what is needed rather than how it may be perceived."