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12 September 2019

Charities Governance & Culture

Forward Thinking Business Blog –

Earlier this year (March 2018), the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland published guidance to help charity trustees comply with their legal obligations and best practice. Running your Charity provides useful advice in five key areas:

  • Duties and responsibilities of charity trustees,
  • Public benefit requirement ( a legal requirement under the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 that all charities must have charitable purposes that are for the public benefit);
  • Finance, funding, reporting and accountability;
  • Governance;
  • Risk and insurance.

The purpose of the guidance is to provide general information for existing trustees and/or individuals who may be thinking of becoming trustees of charities in Northern Ireland.

Keeping abreast of best practice and regulatory changes is vital for charity trustees. A number of recent publications provide useful insights and guidance, says Teresa Campbell.

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Compliance issues

In the Republic of Ireland, a recently published compliance report by the Charities Regulator lists a number of common issues that affect the ability of charity trustees to manage and control their charities. According to this report, issues identified which relate directly to trustee duties and responsibilities included:

  • Charity trustees not aware of their legal duties and responsibilities;
  • Charity trustees lack knowledge of the requirements and conditions in their charity’s governing document;
  • Charity trustees not holding meetings/trustees not attending meetings;
  • Charity trustees making decisions without documenting those decisions in formal Board minutes;
  • Charity trustees making significant decisions without seeking out specialist advice;
  • Charity trustees allowing one or a group of trustees to control the charity;
  • Charity trustees not aware of their legal obligations to the Charities Regulator around:
  • Making an annual return;
  • Keeping their details up to date on the public Register of Charities;
  • Disclosing suspected offences under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001.

Other themes to emerge among the common issues identified related to managing conflicts of interest, internal financial controls, transparency, fundraising, and unregistered charitable organisations. The report, published in August 2018, covers the Charities Regulator compliance activities in 2017.

Internal challenge

In another recent report (April 2018) the Charity Commission regulator for England & Wales urged charities to foster a culture where staff, trustees and volunteers are reminded of the need to challenge any concerning behaviour and not turn a blind eye when internal processes aren’t followed.

According to this report, placing excessive trust in individuals and lack of internal challenge and oversight contributed to 70% of insider frauds in a sample of charities analysed by the Commission.

Previous analysis by the Commission found that a third of frauds committed at charities and reported to the Commission were suspected to have been committed by charity staff, trustees or volunteers.

To support our clients working in the charities sector FPM organises regular seminars and briefings providing updates on best practice and regulatory developments. If you are not already on our mailing list and would like to be notified of forthcoming events…

Contact Teresa

Teresa Campbell / Director

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