The Clothworkers’ Company

The challenge

The Clothworkers’ Company is one of the Great Twelve Livery Companies of the City of London. Part of its mission is to promote trusteeship among members, and improve charity governance across the UK. Founded in 1528 to promote the craft of clothworking, The Company’s members help to fulfil civic duties to the City of London and The Company itself has focussed one area of its grant-making on championing good governance, trusteeship, and fostering a more resilient non-profit sector in the UK.

In keeping with this focus, for the past 11 years The Clothworkers’ Company has partnered with NPC on our trusteeship events series, with the aim of exploring the key issues affecting charity governance in the UK.

The approach

Being a good trustee is not just about managing finances and risk, but grasping opportunities and trying to maximise the social impact of your charity. The free seminars produced by NPC and The Clothworkers’ Company take place from autumn to spring each year, and they share best practice for trustees and new ideas or policies that trustees should be aware of in order to make informed decisions for their staff and beneficiaries. Plus, attendees get to ask questions of our expert speakers and discuss the challenges they are facing with their peers. Previous speakers at these events have include Gail Scott-Spicer, Trustee, Premier League Charitable Fund; Arvinda Gohil, Chair, The Peel; and Jonathan Bell, Trustee, National Aids Trust.

These seminars have always been topical and designed with the current concerns of trustees in mind. Previously, we have hosted sessions on the role for trustees in the debate on diversity and inclusion, and how trustees can help implement place-based approaches. This was particularly true throughout 2020 and 2021, during the pandemic, when we held sessions on retaining and empowering volunteers, harnessing digital opportunities, and setting your charity’s reserves policy. Speakers in 2020 and 2021 have included Alex Butler, Trustee, SafeLives; Tiger de Souza MBE, Volunteering, Participation & Inclusion Director, National Trust; and Rohan Hewavisenti, Chief Financial Officer, Amnesty International. What’s more, after each of these events, blogs and YouTube videos are produced to share the learnings more widely.

The result

These trusteeship and governance seminars have gone from strength to strength since this partnership between The Clothworkers’ Company and NPC was established. This was even the case when Covid-19 disrupted the events series and the sessions moved from Clothworkers’ Hall in London to Zoom. Attendances have reached new heights recently, with 157 people signing up for our harnessing digital technology through and beyond Covid-19 event, and the blogs and YouTube videos continue to carry important messages far and wide, beyond just those who were able to join us for the sessions. Plus, testimony from participants has been as positive and energising as ever: ‘Well structured—well hosted—good range of speakers—great follow up—good job all round’, ‘I wasn’t able to attend the event and so watched the recording on YouTube. It was very useful to be able to do this so thank you’. Looking to the future, this partnership will continue into 2022, with events on the environmental crisis and how to close down services or programmes. The Clothworkers’ Company’s support ensures that this events series continues to champion good governance and build a more resilient non-profit sector in the UK.

As a livery company, our members have always been keenly aware of the importance of fellowship, community and service. Although most no longer have ties to the textiles industry, all have expertise and skills that enable them to make a difference, which is why we encourage them to seek out trustee roles. Our partnership with NPC has been key to our ability to empower and improve communities—in this instance, through our grant-making and other support for improving charity governance across the UK.

Jocelyn Stuart-Grumbar
Clerk, The Clothworkers’ Company

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