It’s that time of year to take stock and set out resolutions. Often they involve getting in shape and being healthy. Well, charity governance is no different.. except that getting governance in decent shape might last longer than some fads that swirl around at New Year.

Get training… new leggings or running shoes optional

We always think training is important. Training in its widest sense makes a difference: from induction to understanding governance and your own organisation, as well as training and updates relevant to how your organisation delivers its activities. This training is not all about trustees and directors. It covers a range of individuals in the organisation. The specific training needs, of course, might differ.

The topic of induction, training and support for prospective, new and existing trustees has cropped up in a significant number of recent situations. We should say these were in positive ways: recognising the value of training and looking at ways to help trustees and others do the best they can for the charity and in an informed manner. It can be particularly important for new trustees (whether to the sector itself or organisation) to have a good grounding and understand the responsibilities and commitments involved.

Training is also something regulators encourage. In public reports on issues that have arisen in organisations, the quality of induction and training appears as a feature. In basic terms, some individuals did not have the opportunity to ‘get’ what it meant to be a charity trustee and recognise the incumbent duties.

The Scottish Governance Code for the Third Sector notes under board effectiveness that a “well-run board understands its role, powers and duties…”. Under leadership the Code says that board leadership comes, in part, from “having a clear understanding of the individual and collective roles and responsibilities of the board.” Other parts of the Code echo these hallmarks of good governance. Under the principle of organisational purpose, the Code highlights the importance of understanding the organisation’s governing document and making sure it is fit for purpose.

So, training can keep your board and team in good governance shape . It also something (as with all exercise) to consistently keep up over time, particularly where new people join the organisation. Regular and steady rather than a one off sprint.

A health check up

Nothing too invasive, we promise.

There can be a real value in checking that governance and constitutional matters for the organisation are in good health. For charities, the first substantive question on the OSCR annual return asks when was the last time the charity looked at and considered its governing document. Having purposes and a governing document that are up-to-date provide a strong foundation for the charity’s work. In Governance Code parlance, it sets out in legal terms the basis for organisational purpose.

A health check goes beyond the governing document or confirming the current legal vehicle is the right one for the organisation. Any topics that are important to the charity should be reviewed as part of a health check. The issues can range from safeguarding and health & safety through to fundraising campaigns and trading activities.