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October 19th, 2018ArticlesGeoffrey Hand 0 Comments

Top tips for charity trustees

You are a charity trustee. In your trustee nightmare,  you are successively chair of trustees of each of these famous, now perhaps notorious, national charities:

  • Oxfam
  • Save the Children
  • The Presidents Club
  • Age UK
  • Help for Heroes
  • Kids Company

Each of these charities has encountered major problems including, variously:

  • allegations of sexual exploitation
  • breaches of confidentiality
  • gross financial irregularity
  • a media onslaught

And each of them has rightly or wrongly suffered serious reputational and operational damage.

Some nightmares! How would you deal with those situations? What are some of the lessons we can learn?  Nightmares apart, how can you keep your charity safe?

Risk assessment

If these six troubled charities had any one thing in common, it must have been a failing in their Risk Assessment. Each of them was caught out – a danger not foreseen, no contingency plan in place, ensuing chaos. A robust risk assessment process is an essential ingredient in keeping your charity safe.

Risk identification

Your charity’s risk identification must be specific to your own charity and rigorous to an extreme and include safeguarding risks.

  • Push the boundaries of risk
  • Look for the most unlikely, the most improbable danger areas
  • Face your absolute worst case scenarios
  • Ask the question “what if”?

Establish a contingency plan to deal with each risk and appoint someone to “own” it. Review the contingency plan regularly.

Wake up to safeguarding

Safeguarding is now about a lot more than the protection from harm of children and vulnerable adults. For charities it now extends to “anyone who comes into contact with the charity including beneficiaries, staff and volunteers”. “Anyone who comes into contact with the charity” is to be taken literally, making a vary large sweep of people to whom trustees now have a regulatory duty to safeguard. This has become so much a priority that the Charity Commission has issued a regulatory alert reminding charities of the importance of establishing “an organisational culture that prioritises safeguarding”.

Serious issues

Trustees should regard any safeguarding issue as a “serious incident” for which there is a Charity Commission protocol. All charity trustees have a legal duty to report Serious Issues to the Charity Commission. It is so high a priority that if your charity’s annual income is over £25,000 you have a legal duty backed by the criminal law to make a formal declaration in your charity’s Annual Return as to the incidence of serious issues in your charity.

Beware the media

Charities are now a fertile hunting ground for sensational media stories. If media onslaught is one of your charity’s identified risks, you need a contingency plan to enable you to respond appropriately to the media’s attention. Some media training may be useful.

As objective expert outsider, I may be able to facilitate your charity’s Risk Analysis process. Call me for a no-obligation discussion.

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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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