Lifting the shadow cast over Charity Governance

A point of view from Frank Bennett Co-Founder Digi-Board Limited.

A Charity Commission Press release 22 September 2017 had the headline ‘Too many serious incidents[1] in charities go unreported’. In 2016 charities reported 2,181 incidents to the Commission; over half of which (55%) related to safeguarding, around one in seven (14%) related to fraud or money laundering, with a third of reported frauds being internal (‘insider’) fraud. The number of reported incidents to the Commission has grown over 100% over the last five years’. This has inevitably cast a shadow over the charity sector.

In spite of all this news the charity sector income has boomed in spite of a decline in public trust and confidence.

Can the sector be confident that will not change?

What’s in store for the future?
In July 2107 a revised Charity Code of Governance was issued to address falling public trust and confidence in the charity sector. The purpose of the Code as reported by the Charity Commission is:

“To help charities and their trustees develop high standards of governance”.

You may read this as a ‘clean up your act’ initiative and it will only be effective if charities can put the Code into practice to improve their governance and for many, particularly smaller charities, that will not be at all easy. That is a problem looking for a solution and the raison d’etre for Digi-Board.

Survival is not guaranteed
There are two big forces that threaten a charity.

1. They run out of money, and they do!

2. Trust and confidence in a charity dissolves with a decline in donations potentially leading to 1.

A new era for charity governance?
The Charity Commission and the Charity Code Governance Steering Group share the aim to improve governance across the sector.

The Charity Commission say:

“As a sector, we owe it to our beneficiaries, stakeholders and supporters to demonstrate exemplary leadership and governance.”

Will the third revision to the Code have more impact that the previous two versions?

The new Charity Code of Governance is 26 pages long and most that read it will be none the wiser how to interpret it to know if their charity is a model of good governance.

We fixed that at Digi-Board with an online questionnaire. It delivers data rich analysis of a charity’s performance against the principles of the Code. It also provides insights about the use of digital, General Data Protection Regulation (data privacy), fundraising activity as well as board behaviours and culture. The result is a charity will know which aspects of its governance need attention and those it is performing well. This information supports a charity to be ‘open and accountable’ which is one of the seven principles of the Code.

Will Digi-Board succeed?
Every new business makes a bet and ours is that more attention will be given to governance by all charities as they look to build and preserve trust and confidence among their stakeholders. Timing is a key factor in the success of a new business and that appears by chance is on our side. We are optimistic as Digi-Board has achieved recognition from ACEVO as their exclusive digital partner for governance reviews and have completed governance reviews for charities with incomes ranging from £200K to £70M+.

We look for other evidence to support our optimism and saw this in a BBC News post[2] following an interview with a member of the public and charity donor: “I think all charities now need to subscribe to some sort of governance and compliance and it needs to be available to the public whenever they want to see it”.

If you have bootstrapped a business you will know how much you rely on your network and word of mouth. Please can I ask you to ‘share’ this article? Thank You.

Digi-Board is a provider of digital innovation for the improvement of the governance of charities and not-for-profit organisations.

[1] A serious incident in a charity is described as an “adverse event, actual or alleged, which results in harm to a charity’s work, beneficiaries or reputation; the loss of a charity’s money or assets, or damage to a charity’s property”.


This article was first published by Frank Bennett Co-Founder of Digi-Board at LinkedIn