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.