On 7 November, at the start of Trustees Week (which is "an annual event to showcase the great work that trustees do and highlight opportunities for people from all walks of life to get involved and make a difference”) a draft of the new charity sector governance code (fully entitled: ‘Good Governance: a Code for the Voluntary and Community Sector’) was published for consultation.
The consultation ends on 7 February 2017 and a full draft of the Code, together with other information about it, can be found online. The Code was originally published in 2005 and is intended as an aide to help those involved in charities and the voluntary sector to practice good governance in the running and management of their organisations and activities.
The proposed new, updated Code is described as a "major overhaul" and includes more detail "with an enhanced focus on delivering organisational purpose and direction”. There is a focus on continuous improvement and striving for best practice, rather than simply seeking to comply with the minimum requirements of charity law and regulation. There are higher standards proposed in areas such as board composition, diversity, and the role of the chairperson in promoting good governance.
The new Code also reflects and recognises the increased focus on ethical practice and operation within the charity sector, and encourages trustees to regularly consider the wider landscape within which they operate and take a positive approach to collaborative working and mergers where they identify other charities seeking to fulfil the same charitable objectives in the same area. The Code also recommends that charities striving to apply the Code should include in their annual report information about the steps they have taken to do so.
Good governance is essential to the operation of an effective charity, and is regularly a hot topic for the Charity Commission. Over recent years there has been an increased focus on good governance, partly due to the increased investigatory role now played by the Commission resulting in several high profile cases of extremely poor governance and, in some cases, fraud. The Commission expects all trustees to understand and act in accordance with their duties and the Code is intended to help them to do so. Its overhaul will modernise the Code and ensure that it remains relevant and helpful.
The theme for this year’s Trustees Week is ‘stronger charities through good leadership’, and the launch of the new Code at the start of this week helps to emphasise that message. The Commission has reminded trustees this week that “their fundamental roles and responsibilities are the same as they have always been, despite the recent increase in focus. Trustees should act in the best interests of their charity, ensuring it is best placed and equipped to achieve its charitable purpose for the public benefit.”
We offer regular trustee induction and refresher training covering the core duties and responsibilities of charity trustees, which is essential fundamental training for all new trustees, and serves as a useful refresher for those who have been volunteering as trustees for years and years. In addition, we offer in-house training to charities who are interested in providing their trustees and senior management with more tailored training appropriate to their specific needs and activities.