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October 5th, 2018ArticlesGeoffrey Hand 0 Comments

Behind every charity dispute

Charity disputes are all too common, and this is not a well-known tenet of charity management, but it is one I know to be true: behind almost every charity dispute lies a failure of governance.

Avoiding charity disputes

How to avoid charity disputes altogether:

– be warned

Be warned and be careful – charities are potential powder kegs for disputes. I say this because people are attracted to be charity trustees, members of charities or charity volunteers by altruism and a passion for a particular societal concern; admirable people – kindred spirits – who put body and soul into their charity work. People with strong feelings. If problems arise some such people just walk away. Others dig in for a full-blown dispute regardless of the consequences.

– key steps

My experience also tells me that charities which

    • regularly review their governance,
    • have a code of conduct in place,
    • conduct trustee / staff and peer appraisals,
    • take time out to consider objectively the hows, whats and whys of who they are, what they are doing and the reasons why,
    • are well versed in their governing document and abide by its rules particularly as to trustee terms of office,

are a very long way down the road to avoiding the turmoil, disruption and reputational damage that are the almost inevitable consequences of an internal charity dispute.

Limited help from Charity Commission

Unfortunately I also know the extent to which the Charity Commission will become involved in a charity dispute and the legal limitations on taking charity disputes to court, which can be disappointing news for trustees.

Take action

Your charity’s chair is the key to averting a charity dispute. The chair has the status and leadership responsibility to intervene in any issues between trustees, staff, members or volunteers to kill off the dispute at source.

If your chair is the problem, shine light on it by an appraisal – even a 360° review – not just appraising the chair but the entire charity management, trustees and staff.

Trustees can be reminded of their own responsibilities in dispute resolution.

Then the way is clear for a full independent governance review, to get to the heart of the problem. If the solution is not then self-evident, call in an outside, independent charity governance expert

Nip these problems in the bud

Following a career as a litigation solicitor, as a Chartered Arbitrator and in more recent years as a charity governance consultant, I know quite a lot about charity disputes – resolving them, bringing them to the best conclusion, and picking up the pieces in the aftermath of a charity dispute.

Call me today to start getting some help.

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Geoffrey Hand

Geoffrey Hand is a charity governance consultant, offering governance consultancy and training. He also provides legal services management, helping charities get better value for money from their lawyers. Geoffrey has extensive experience in the charity and legal worlds, and his mission is to help charities deliver good governance.

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