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Financial oversight: What trustees need to know about finances and accounts

NPC’s briefing paper for trustees following our seminar on finance and accounts.

On 13 October 2014, NPC and the Clothworkers’ Company held a seminar covering what trustees need to know about finance and accounts. Strong financial oversight from trustees is essential for charities, especially when many are experiencing pressures on their sources of funding. However NPC has found that not all trustees feel well equipped to do this and many are concerned they are not asking the right questions.

This report highlights the main topics discussed during the seminar and summarises the advice given by our speakers, who are listed below along with the themes they focused on:

  • Kate Sayer (Partner, Sayer Vincent; Governor and Chair of Audit Committee, Cheltenham College) gave us an auditor’s perspective on financial oversight and provided guidance on the minimum that trustees should know about their charity’s finances and what they should expect to get from their organisation.
  • Ray Jones (Training Advisor, Charity Finance Group) discussed sector trends, SORP and pensions and the importance of transparency for charities.
  • Jonathan Taylor (Director of Finances and Resources, JDRF; Trustee and Chair Finance and Audit Committee, Local Trust) gave a personal account of his work as a finance director and explained why communication between senior management and trustees is crucial.
  • Fiona Thompson (Hon Treasurer, Fenton Arts Trust; Trustee and Vice-Chair of the Finance, Nominations and Remuneration Committees, CARE International UK; Audit Committee, Forum for the Future) defined the key issues as a treasurer and outlined the questions that all trustees should ask.

This briefing provides guidance to help trustees make confident decisions regarding the financial aspects of their organisation and stresses that when it comes to accounts and finances, there is no such thing as a stupid question.

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