With impeccable timing the Charity Commission has published its revised guidance for trustees. The essential trustee (or CC3) is recommend reading for any current or aspiring trustee and this version is more user friendly and interactive, following the Commission’s consultation which was widely responded to, including by NPC.

It is impeccable timing since the charity sector is continuing to take a lot of flack at the moment—whether over chief executive pay, fundraising methods or financial management. In charities the buck doesn’t stop with the management team, but with the board of trustees—so trustees needs to understand what is happening within the charity, without micro-managing. This is a tricky balancing act and there have been some high profile failures. So we welcome the new guidance, which explains clearly what trustees need to do to carry out their duties competently.

The guidance has a difficult brief to fill—that of laying out the expectations of being a trustee without scaring potential trustees off. This is especially important since there is a shortage of trustees—the common figure quoted is that at least 50% of charities have one or more vacancies on their board. I think the new CC3 guidance manages this as well as can be expected, and I hope it will contribute to promoting better informed boards ready to take the bold steps that the charity sector needs to move forward.

The guide also provides lots of links to useful documents such as the Charities SORP, the Code of Good Governance and our own Inspiring Impact. In the light of recent events I would particularly recommend the section on risk and, as the boundaries of the social sector get looser and baggier, the summary of what different legal structures mean for trustees. But those are just my personal favourites.

However the guide does fall short when it comes to the need to measure and report on impact, despite NPC’s best and repeated efforts to raise the bar. Trustees are merely asked to ‘periodically review what the charity is achieving, and how effective the charity’s activities are’. This doesn’t go far enough in our book. We would like trustees to report each year on the charity’s impact, progress in achieving its core mission and how it plans to improve. This after all is a charity’s raison d’etre and should be more prominent in the guidance.

  • If you want to take the lead and move your charity towards a focus on impact, come along to our seminar for trustees with the Clothworkers’ Company on 28 September.

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