With the reputation of the charity sector under assault from recent scandals, this paper from icsa is a timely one. Although hard to measure, the permeation of a recognisable, embraced and effective cultural identity is the mainstay of charitable activity, whether for small or large organisations.
Cultural Markers (pdf) provides an interesting overview of the current reputational demise of the sector, but we would argue that this should not be read as global condemnation of all. Indeed the report states ‘…A small number of charities have contributed to this perceived decline in public trust, making operations more difficult for the majority of charities, which quietly go about business helping their beneficiaries‘.
The report recognises the pressure everyone in the sector is under, as funding diminishes and operational constraints continue to increase. However, ‘…there needs to be a strong understanding and respect for the roles of each in ensuring that an appropriate culture is evident and supported by corresponding values and ethics in every facet of the charity’s operations‘.
The icsa report considers thirteen key indicators that can affect cultural attitudes and deliveries inside charities. They include…
Considered and reflective board discussions about culture, values and ethics
A strong commitment to good governance
Strong, ethical and considered leadership
The power of personality
The reflection also includes nine key questions which trustees, managers and leaders of all shades should be addressing to maintain and improve their ‘cultural effectiveness’. These include…
How frequently is organisational culture (values) discussed as part of the formal
board agenda? Never, every three years (alongside the strategic plan), once a year,
more than once a year?
Do staff/customer satisfaction survey results mirror the agreed culture of the
Have members challenged the authority of the board in the last 12–18 months?
What was the issue under challenge?
Does the board/senior management team behave in accordance with the agreed
values of the organisation?
Is there an agreed code of conduct in place that helps to build the desired culture
of the organisation?
Are constitutional changes made against material opposition from members, staff,
service users or funders?
Are ethical dilemmas discussed at board meetings? Are such ethical decisions
Have key performance indicators led to any inappropriate behaviours in the
How are incidents of inappropriate behaviours or unwanted culture recorded,
monitored and dealt with?
With reputations under challenge and the myriad competing priorities of charitable governance, it is welcome to have a simple codified process of question and challenge which, if adopted as part of the normal discourse of the work, will help support and improve the culture of our organisations.
”The purpose of this guidance is to help trustees comply with their legal trustee duties when overseeing their charity’s fundraising. It sets out 6 principles to help them achieve this.
It focuses primarily on matters within the Commission’s regulatory remit. It is not a guide to the wide range of laws and regulations that apply to specific types and aspects of fundraising, but it provides links to sources of information about these rules”.
Source: Fundraising for Trustees CC20 The Charity Commission.
We detail the key principles of Trustee responsibility here…
This is about you and your co-trustees agreeing or setting, and then monitoring, your charity’s overall approach to fundraising. Your fundraising plan should also take account of risks, your charity’s values and its relationship with donors and the wider public, as well as its income needs and expectations.
Supervising your fundraisers
This is about you and your co-trustees having systems in place to oversee the fundraising which others carry out for your charity, so that you can be satisfied that it is, and remains, in your charity’s best interests. It means delegating responsibly so that your charity’s in-house and volunteer fundraisers, and any connected companies, know what is expected of them. If you employ a commercial partner to raise funds for your charity, the arrangement must be in the charity’s best interests and comply with any specific legal rules and standards that apply.
Protecting your charity’s reputation, money and other assets
This means ensuring that there is strong management of your charity’s assets and resources so that you can meet your legal trustee duty to act in your charity’s best interests and protect it from undue risk. It includes ensuring that there is adequate consideration of the impact of your charity’s fundraising on its donors, supporters and the public, making sure that your charity receives all the money to which it is entitled, and taking steps to reduce risk of loss or fraud.
Identifying and ensuring compliance with the laws or regulations that apply specifically to your charity’s fundraising
The legal rules that apply to various types of fundraising can be detailed and complex. They cover compliance in important areas such as with data protection law, licensing, and working with commercial partners. There are new rules in the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016 which affect some charities that fundraise. You should make sure that your charity has access to sufficient information and appropriate advice to ensure that its fundraising complies with all relevant legal rules.
Identifying and following any recognised standards that apply to your charity’s fundraising
These are in the Fundraising Regulator’s Code of Fundraising Practice. The Code outlines both the legal rules that apply to fundraising and the standards designed to ensure that fundraising is open, honest and respectful. The Commission expects all charities that fundraise to fully comply with the Code.
Being open and accountable
This includes complying with any relevant statutory accounting and reporting requirements on fundraising and using reporting to demonstrate that your charity is well run and effective. In your fundraising communications it is about being able to effectively explain your fundraising work to members of the public and your charity’s donors and supporters.
The body of the report contains ten trends for smaller charities to be aware of, as well as a detailed analysis and recommendation around planning for financial sustainability. As might be expected from a Foundation whose funds derive from banking?
However, all charities in the UK provide unique and distinctive services to their beneficiaries, and no one cry for change will suit all, as will all calls for financial process change. Which may be irrelevant for mature, well-ordered and well governed charities, whatever their size.
None the less, for smaller charities who provide services to the vulnerable or distressed, there is much useful reflection to be found within the pages of the report. It is also an ideal primer to provide a broad context for current charitable activity in England, at a time of deep political change and financial stringency, which donors and supporters of small charities may be unaware of.
Some key report elements at frst reading:
The road to Brexit – the report offers a good analysis, highlighting the unknown road ahead for small charities, and predicts some of the changes that might be enacted once we are separated from the EU.
Local government at tipping point – with budget cuts at 40% by 2010 and the downward spiral continuing, local authorities will continue to make changes to service delivery that could affect the provision of support, currently funded by local government, but which falls outside LA statutory provision.
Preparing for the future – a section of the report which looks at aspects of technological deployment by small charities, making an argument that ‘digital capabilities’ will be an important element in charity infrastructure in the future.
The exploration of new income streams in this emerging new landscape, as well as partnership and collaborative work, that is both pro-actively sought and ‘owned’ by small charities as a result of the changes, is both encouraged and discussed in the report.
This is a detailed and intelligent assessment of an ‘industry’ undergoing change – the report is declarative on deficits emerging from change, but has, at its core, a road map for regenerative, optimistic and practical measures which should resonate with those of us who work for, or support, charities in England.
The latest updates from the Charity Commission are available to view, download or print from the Edridge Fund newsfeed.
Latest highlights include…
• New reporting obligation to HMRC affects charities making grants
• Regulatory alerts issued for fundraising charities
• Celebrating local charities and trustees
• Are your contact details up-to-date?
• Shaping the future of our digital services
• Keeping your finances in check in 2017
• Is collaboration or merger the way forward for your charity?
• Learning from the Commission’s case reports
• Safer giving for charities
• Tackling abuse and mismanagement in the charitable sector
• Consulting on information collected in the 2017 annual return
Key content includes…
Those charities which receive more than half of their income from financial investments in any year need to check whether they have an obligation to report details of their grant recipients to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
The Commission recently issued an alert to promote the new Charities Act fundraising rules, which came in to force on 1 November 2016. The new rules affect:
• the trustees’ annual reports of larger charities that fundraise from the public
• the agreements that must be in place when third‐party fundraisers raise money for charities
Are your Charity Commission contact details up-to-date?
Please take a moment to log in to our online portal and check that we have the correct contact details for your named contacts, including an up-to-date email address, so that we can quickly contact you when needed.
15 questions Trustees need to ask on governance, finance and reslience. See more here…
Keeping up to date as a charity makes your fund-raising and service delivery efficient and effective (Ed.).
NCVO have been working on a new draft web site to explain the working of charities. How Charities Work.
A useful new on-line resource both for existing charites and their boards, but particularly for the public in general. Helping to explain sometimes seemingly arcane rules, or the not often declared constraints that modern charities work under.
‘Charities want to make sure that their supporters and the wider public have complete confidence in how they work, because ultimately they can only do what they do thanks to your support.
Charities in the UK play a vital role in society – they make a difference to millions of lives in our country and across the world.
They can only make the difference they do because of you, whether you’re volunteering, donating goods or money, sponsoring a friend in a marathon, attending a fundraising event, or spreading the word. Charities harness the public’s goodwill and combine it with professional expertise to create the biggest possible impact.
So they want to make sure you can find answers to any questions you may have about how they work’.