Conchita from The FSI guest blogs in the run-up to 2013’s Small Charity Week.
Recent research by the FSI into the skills gaps within the small charity sector has shown that charitable organisations with an annual turnover under £1.5 million continue to struggle in key areas which impacts on their ability to deliver services.
The full report shows that as small charities prioritise the use of funding to deliver frontline programmes, they are increasingly unable to train or develop staff and volunteers. 66% of respondents stated there was no funding available for training and development, while 37% said there would be no room to improve their charitable services, which could impair the quality delivered to beneficiaries.
Small charities reported that impact reporting, long-term strategic planning and marketing were the areas in which they were struggling to plug this skills gap in their organisation. To see the full report, please click here.
Small Charity Week 2013 will be taking place between the 17th-22nd June and aims to address some of the issues raised by small charities as areas in which they struggle. Small charities can sign up to six days of free initiatives and competitions, including cash prizes, pro-bono advice and guidance from third sector and business experts including, the FSI, Reach, Oxfam and Credit Suisse to name a few. Also available will be opportunities for small charities to engage with policy makers and influencers when Nick Hurd, Minister of Civil Society hosts a cross-party event at Westminster on Policy Day.
Small charities have told us they continue to rely heavily on volunteers to support their activity and for the first time the FSI are including a Volunteering Day into the week’s programme to help small charities to promote their volunteer opportunities and find the skills they need for their organisation. We are excited to be working alongside Reach to support charities on this day.
The full breakdown for the week is as follows:
Small charities can sign up to all of the free activities of Small Charity Week through the website smallcharityweek.com and follow news through twitter @SCWeek2013 or the Facebook page
Conchita Garcia is Head of Projects and Development at The FSI. Here she blogs in a personal capacity.
Posted in Blog Entries Tagged with: Big Society, Charity boards, Charity Governance, Charity Trustee, Creative volunteer engagement, Fundraising, Governance, Skilled volunteering, Third Sector, Third sector leaders, Trustee Recruitment, Volunteer expertise
The recent Grant Thornton report on good governance emphasised the need to recruit and maintain a diverse and effective Board of Trustees with a broad range of trustee skills, knowledge and experience.
This will help charities to be fair and open in the way they deliver services and to be more accountable for their actions all serving to increase confidence in their work.
The report based on a study of the Annual Reports of the UK’s top 100 charities highlighted many good examples of diversity – not least the 31% representation of women on their Boards compared to 22% on the Boards of the UK’s top 100 companies.
It also highlighted the important connection between having polices for good governance and being accountability though providing full information about these in Annual Reports. Being seen to adhere to good governance principles and practice can be as important as good governance itself. There is a symbiotic relationship with the discipline of having to describe in the Annual Report the system for good governance compelling charities to concentrate on how they can bring about and maintain good governance in the first place.
The report sets out a number of recommendations for good governance and good operational practice in areas such as Board succession planning and sets out ideas for what should be covered Annual Reports such as:
All charity trustees would learn something of benefit about how to make their charity even more effective by reading this well-researched and presented report.
With the Charity Commission recently debating the merits of formal training for charity trustees, I wanted to talk about Reach’s position.
I’d agree that there is an urgent need for much more training for trustees – to help them deal with increasingly complex issues raised. However, I also want to clarify and reinforce understanding of what a good trustee/chair does.
One common issue is that boards tend to develop their own set of behaviours and expectations. Where the board is weak, this perpetuates poor performance, and training for new trustees is crucial to arrest this. However even good boards could benefit from new trustees bringing in fresh and up to date perspectives on good governance.
Compulsory training would be problematic, but charities could have an expectation that new trustees would attend training. After all, schools expect all governors to attend training (both induction and specialist / update sessions).
The key question is who will pay for this? Most smaller charities have no budget at all for governance.
Our guest blogger Denise Fellows talks about the role of a charity’s honorary treasurer.
Most charities have an honorary treasurer or a trustee who has the responsibility for finances on their board. It is often the treasurer that the other trustees look to for advice, guidance and reassurance on all aspects of the charity’s financial management and reporting, control systems, solvency and investments. Charities are keen to recruit trustees with professional qualifications and accountants are sought after as generally useful trustees and potential future treasurers.
So why are accountants sometimes reluctant to play to their skill strengths when considering trustee positions and honorary treasurer roles? Do they think it will be a busman’s holiday and that as well as poring over detailed accounts in the working day, they will be forced to examine accounts in their leisure time too?
Honorary treasurers often talk about the satisfaction they gain from acting in this role. It’s not just about compliance and governance activities, it’s about being able to make a real difference by using their broader knowledge and experience supporting the chair and the chief executive to make a direct impact on the work of the charity . The treasurer is most effective when they are committed to the purpose of the charity and where the size and complexity of the charity provide an appropriate level of activity in the role. Some charities have large investments which need careful management; others are facing challenges with cuts in funding; and some have increased financial risks because they deliver services overseas.
The treasurer needs to be the financial conscience of the organisation, concerned not only in fiduciary and stewardship matters but also in understanding the bigger picture: having a holistic view of the organisation and the impact of decisions. Strategic and operational plans should be clearly integrated with the budget and the treasurer needs the overview to review the allocation of resources to different strands of activity.
The treasurer must be able to take a broad perspective to recognise financial risk from the operational data and be able to review outcomes to ensure that the charity is effective and efficient. This requires skills which are much more business orientated than pure number crunching.
It is important that the treasurer can explain the technicalities of the accounts in plain language so that other trustees understand and are interested in finance issues to enable informed discussion and decision making. A good treasurer also considers external communication and ensures that the statutory annual accounts and trustees report are clear and provide a real picture of achievement.
The treasurer needs to develop a good working relationship with the finance executive, understanding the difference in their roles and providing support and cover in board meetings. The treasurer usually chairs the finance sub-committee and will need to work closely with the chair of the board to ensure that they are briefed on important financial issues. A good treasurer will develop trusted relationships and inspire confidence that finances are under control.
Many of the large accounting firms are now encouraging their staff to develop their business skills and appreciate that whilst a small part is gained through training, the greater development is through experience. The role of treasurer requires you to be not only technically competent but also a great communicator, strategic thinker and relationship builder. So, working in a different environment might be invigorating for your day job too!
Denise Fellows is CEO of the Honorary Treasurers Forum which provides professional development and camaraderie for treasurers of nonprofit organisations. She blogs in a personal capacity.
This is an interesting time for the Civil Society Sector, with many-not-for-profits facing financial pressures while simultaneously recording an increase in demand for their services. The sector is being tested in extraordinary ways and the need for good governance has never been more acute. If the Big Society is to become a reality, it is vital that organisations have the very best trustees in place.
Following the success of March’s event, TrusteeWorks, together with Trustees Unlimited, are delighted to be running another training event for people interested in becoming trustees. Drawing on the experience of TrusteeWorks, Reach Volunteering, NCVO and Trustees Unlimited, the event will cover three key areas:
You may be a charity with a new trustee on board, a volunteer looking to become a trustee or a trustee new to the role. What you have in common is the need to find out more about that role and the crucial part it plays in the life of your charity.
17.15 – Introduction
17.25 – Karl Wilding, Head of Policy, Research & Foresight
17.35 – Anne Moynihan, Trustee & Governance Consultant
17.55 – Sarah King, TrusteeWorks
18.00 – Ian Joseph, Trustees Unlimited
18.20 – 7.00 – Q & A
19.00 – Networking (drinks & canapés)
19.50 – End
When: 14 July 2011
Where: NCVO, Regent’s Wharf, 8 All Saints Street, London N1 9RL
Cost: £35, which includes canapés and drinks.
I was at a governance conference two weeks ago. Andrew Hind, former Charity Commission chief executive spoke about his own experience of being a trustee.
This was not a lesson in the red tape of trusteeship, it was the story of how one person was captivated by charities and was willing to work at the tough bits of trusteeship as well as the rewards. It was a great personal story and sobering. But most of all it was oddly encouraging – even those who know can get in over their heads!
So what did Andrew say that turned risk into encouragement to be a trustee:
So if Andrew Hind can be humble, get it wrong but still be a committed trustee, what can we as charities to do to make being a trustee that inspiring and rewarding role that Andrew so clearly sees. He knows all about risk and red tape but that is not what he sees. How do we help others see a different perspective too?
Saturday morning, in Bridgewater (that’s in Somerset in case you were wondering). Gloomy weather, 170 miles from home, it’s the weekend and I’m at the YMCA England AGM. Why am I here? More to the point, why are 70 other people here buzzing about, laughing and generally seeming quite happy to be here?
Well the coffee is good, that definitely helps but we didn’t know that before we arrived. So why ‘do’ the AGM?
First it’s a legal requirement. The YMCA England Board have to attend and it helps if the individual YMCAs turn up to as a quorum always helps with the legal stuff. Many people still leave it to others though, only about 20 of the 135 YMCAs are represented . This is typical in my experience of other charities. It is 45 very routine minutes but I think it can be more.
Second, if local YMCAs want to influence and gain value from the national body then we have to turn up and vote. This is true for all charities and any membership organisation. I see it as a bit like the government – we may not like all the decisions and we may have voted for another candidate but if we don’t vote at all and don’t participate at all we give up our voice.
Third, we get to meet other trustees and people involved in making local YMCAs work. We shared our challenges, raised voices in enthusiasm about new projects, murmured our thoughts of envy at the amazing new facility here at Bridgwater YMCA (definitely worth the trip in itself) and we celebrated the work of the movement. And it was here that the value of the AGM really became clear. Not in the rules and the papers but in the stories and real life. At the YMCA Thanksgiving Service later that day we heard stories from the people doing the work and those affected by the work. We even saw the work in action. There were rounds of applause and skateboarding (yes, even in an Anglican church) and tears at some of the moving stories. Those of us there were inspired and more than anything it reminded us why the charity does what it does.
Fourth, there is an opportunity to make the overall event so much more than the legality of the meeting. Yes we have to do that so it is well worth making sure people attending understand why it is needed and put it in context. remind those present why the charity exists in the first place and share a both of the vision for where it will go next year. It’s a marketing opportunity as well, a time to get people ‘on message’ and enthused again.
So to me, more than anything, and my final thought on the role of the AGM, it is an opportunity to reconnect with the work of a charity, it’s people, it’s contribution, it’s plans. Ian Green, CEO YMCA England summed it up: “We journey together, we journey at times of challenges and exhilaration. We journey so that there is a place for our young people where they can belong, contribute and thrive.”
And in the background the new sports hall facility was being used – young voices are raised in glee egging each other on. The noise was happy, energetic and LOUD. We were forced to use the microphones to hear ourselves. But did it matter? No. That noise is what we’re about and as we finished the formal voting on changes to the M&A those voices were almost a round of applause to the way the YMCA movement has changed lives in the last 12 months.
Trustees’ Week gave a real boost to awareness and debate on trustee issues. Now it is for Reach and other Trustees’ Week partners to build on the momentum generated to help fill more trustee vacancies and to help all trustees to be fully effective.
As the world becomes more complex charities need to ensure they involve as trustees people with a wide range of up-to-date skills in areas like HR, finance, marketing and IT. They can help and guide staff in their own professional area as well as providing traditional governance and strategy-setting at the board level.
Everyone gains: charities form a fresh approach at board level drawing on the skills and experience their trustees bring while trustees can develop board-type skills that may open up new opportunities for them in other fields.
We would encourage all organisations to think about the skills mix they have on their board, and by using our free downloadable TrusteeWorks Skills Audit identify the balance of skills they need. And, of course, our TrusteeWorks service is there to advise and help you find the right volunteers to fill any skills gap you identify or replace retiring trustees.
The full impact of Trustees Week will emerge over time. We are keen to hear from organisations and trustees (both existing and potential) what they thought of the week.
Reach was a big part of the UK’s first ever Trustees’ Week.
Here we review what we did and how it all went.
The Trustees’ Week ‘special promotion’
We kicked off on the Thursday before Trustees’ Week with a special promotion sent to 12,000 organisations offering a free half hour consultation to those registering with us in November. And a slightly nervous service team awaited the response…
Trustees’ Week events
Trustees’ Week itself was a well orchestrated affair, with the TrusteeWorks team attending or holding 6 events over three days. Sarah King, our Chief Executive, managed to deliver two presentations on one day with the help of an obligingly reliable British Rail.
Reach held two events, aiming to raise awareness of Trustees’ Week and its messages outside of London.
Our event in Hertfordshire was held in the wonderfully rearchitectured Focolare centre, where a group of trustees and potential trustees engaged in such a lively debate that they determined to set up their own network to continue the discussion.
We promoted our event in Newcastle to 600 local organisations, the local media and the 1400 organisations on the Newcastle CVS newsletter. The result was that our event in Newcastle City Hall was so well attended that extra tables, chairs and coffee cups had to be hastily assembled. Again the audience was hugely engaged, and keen to access as much support as possible to aid their recruitment of great trustees.
Trustees’ Week communications
Over the course of the week, Judith Rich, governance specialist and our Vice President, wrote a series of thought pieces around trustee issues which featured on our website. Reach had 3300 visitors to our website over the week before and the week of Trustees’ Week.
Sarah King appeared as ACEVO Member of the Week two weeks ago and featured in Third Sector’s My Week column.
Overall, in our promotion of the Week, we directly contacted over 20,000 organisations, handed out over 300 information packs, delivered presentations to 250 trustees and potential trustees and contacted over 25 members of the media.
This has helped to highlight the issues facing voluntary organisations in their trustee recruitment and bring new trustees to the sector.
Reach is looking forward to Trustee’s Week being an annual event!
The Big Society is a big idea. The budget deficit is a big hole. Can the two coexist and create action in the sector rather than inertia?
Reach, along with many in the sector, recognises both the challenges and opportunities posed by David Cameron’s Big Society initiative. We will maintain a close watch on how its developments impact on voluntary organisations.
In the meantime though, Reach thinks there are opportunities for action now. Whether you think it’s using some of the Big Society ideals or doing what the sector has always done well, local people and local voluntary groups can do things now. If nothing else they can prepare for the budget cuts rather than wait for them to roll in and stop great work in its tracks.
At Reach we can see that the need for volunteers at a local level, not driven by politics but by the demand from organisations on the ground, is growing.
The sense of potential change and upheaval has left our sector a little paralysed, many organisations are nervous about moving forward when so much is up in the air. I know that feeling myself. So what can we do to get out of that paralysis and take more control over our own destiny?
One obvious suggestion from Reach of course is to work out the critical things you want to do and think about using a skilled volunteer to help get started. An upside for the sector from the recession is the number of new skilled people offering their time. Last week members of the Reach team spoke to a career press officer, a highly experience IT software project manager, a market researcher, a qualified accountant, a training delivery manager, a social enterprise founder and a charity chief executive who all wanted to try their hand at a new type of volunteering in the sector. Two of them are coming to help us this autumn.
Getting the trustees engaged is another important action. They are the strategy setters but can often be the people who wait too long to act. We spent most of the day debating these issues as a Board yesterday. One of our trustees is taking a lead in watching the emerging Big Society dialogue and digesting what it means for Reach. Another trustee is bringing fresh eyes to our next marketing plan and yet a third is looking carefully with us at our new recruitment system and how we can use it better and exploit its benefits faster.
It may take months or even years until we properly understand the impact of the Big Society initiative. More damaging than any threats brought by it may be the time wasted waiting to find out what it all means.