Our Trustees seminars are inspiring affairs. There’s nothing like working in a room full of people who are giving their time and expertise for free to make you realise there is a lot of good in the world we live in. Having worked in the voluntary sector for eight years before starting work at the Wales Audit Office, I’ve got a bit of an emotional investment in the sector too.
In the opening session of both days we heard from Mike Palmer and Chris Bolton talk about the Wales Audit Office’s public interest reports. As an organisation we really want to avoid the kind of circumstances where we need to produce them, so these seminars are our way of trying to prevent or reduce the likelihood of this happening in the future.
I attended the Charity Commission’s workshops at both events, where it was clear that the best way to protect your charity is to have the right processes in place at the start. It sounds like an obvious message, but many people said that their focus was very much on the work of the charity, and very often the process tended to be forgotten about.
It was interesting to hear about the steps that organisations are taking to ensure that they manage risks. One trustee mentioned ‘the press test’ – how would their actions be viewed if they were covered in detail by the press? It’s a simple approach that encourages trustees to reflect on their decisions and to avoid making decisions in haste. The bottom line is that everything they do has to be in the best interest of the charity.
There was also discussion about inductions and training. Do trustees have a clear idea of what is expected of them? Have they been given the right information to enable them to get to grips with their roles effectively?
We had some fascinating discussions about what to do if something does go wrong. At the Cardiff seminar Rosie Stokes from the Charity Commission confirmed that using charitable funds for legal purposes is a valid use of charitable funds. It’s important that charities deal with issues effectively and rigorously if they want to protect their charity.
You can hear Rosie discuss the workshop in the above video, and the slides from the Charity Commission workshop are also online. It’s worth having a look at both so you can think about the messages within them and contrast them with what your organisation is doing. One of the key messages that came out of the event is that governing documents set out the aims and objectives of your charity. And if you’re working to those aims and objectives, then you’re far more likely to be delivering the effective services that your beneficiaries need.