Governance weekly for 14th December

The weekly roundup from VANEL on good governance, charity trusteeship and non-profit leadership. News, information, resources and ideas. Complemented by our “aboutgovernance” online discussion space for leaders and trustees and our @aboutgovernance Twitter feed.

This is the last “Governance Weekly” column for 2017. So it’s a chance to do one of those retrospective ‘looking back’ reviews. But first, a quick look forward to remind you of the new Governance related training programme that’s now scheduled for the start of 2018.

We have a number of courses scheduled and all the details are on this flyer here. The courses include:

“Could you be a Trustee?” Suited to people thinking of becoming a trustee for the first time

“Induction and Refresher Training for Trustees” for those who are new into the role (or need to be brought back up to speed)

“Finances for non-financial trustees” because every trustee needs to know something about the financial health of their charity

“Better Boards: using the Code to review and improve your governance” for individual trustees and the whole board to learn how to improve and develop good practice in your governance approach

And “Technology for Trustees” because the level of benefit being gained from the digital and technical revolution within charities is still extremely poor.

So we have something for everyone. All training generally takes place at VANEL offices in Grimsby, but dates and prices are varied, so take a look at the flyer and then keep an eye on our Training Calendar here and on our website news. Any queries or to book, contact me, Karl Elliott direct.

So looking back now over 2017…

“Governance Weekly” has been running throughout the year, and whilst it hasn’t appeared every single week, we’ve had over 35 ‘issues’ and each week we’ve been reporting on new reports and research, on training and learning opportunities, on useful resources for you and your board, and on challenging and interesting ‘thinking’ in the sector. As I look back, here are a few key trends that have been obvious across governance in the voluntary sector during 2017:

Importantly the new Charity Governance Code was published after a long consultation. It’s the evolution of the long standing “Code of Good Governance” and it now gives us all a free, easily accessible and understandable framework with which to self-review our own governance approaches and ensure we can take steps to work towards better practices. During 2018 watch out for more and more charities signing up to the Code and for more and more toolkit’s and resources appearing to help you as you apply it. (VANEL have our “Better Boards” training to help you in the new year).

Fallout from rogue charity failures continue to ripple through the sector. Particularly the collapse of Kids Company and the role of poor governance in that. The Charity Commission initiated a programme to look at (and build) trust in the charitable sector, and good governance practices (and tools such as the Charity Governance Code) and going to be a way forward on this. In 2018 growing trust in the charitable sector will continue to be a ‘topic’.

Digital by default and ever accelerating technology is not going away any time soon. And the charitable sector as a whole is embarrassingly poor on digital skills and on digital implementation. This increases risk across the sector, reduces potential impact and benefit from our organisations, and misses opportunities. Boards lead their organisations and at board level the digital skills shortage is even greater. VANEL will continue to run training and support on the digital agenda during 2018 to help address this theme.

At the end of the year saw the publication from the Charity Commission of a huge piece of research across the sector (“Taken on Trust”). Although it of course highlighted issues and barriers to be overcome, it also demonstrated clearly how huge the value is of the volunteering efforts made by trustees and committee members in social organisations across the UK. So whilst we have a continual struggle to improve governance in general, all of these valuable volunteers that serve on the committees that lead charities deserve a huge thank you.

Diversity continues to be an issue (as highlighted in the Taken on Trust report). This can mean diversity such as gender, age, ethnicity or religion, it really means diversity of approach, mindset and outlook, and representation on boards and committees of a mix of skills that do the very best for that charity. Diversity works its way in to the new Charity Governance Code now as a distinct principle to be addressed. So it’s something to continue to tackle. At VANEL we’re actively trying to address age diversity on boards with our IGNITE team championing trusteeship for younger (<30) people.

May 2018 is getting closer, and that’s the point at which the new GDPR regulations (replacing the Data Protection Act) come fully into force and which all our charities and organisations need to be preparing for. This is a specific technical challenge which all committees and boards need to be tackling but for me it’s also indicative of the challenge of working out how to ensure trustees keep up to date with all the legislative changes in the world around them.

Of course there were many more trends and themes throughout the year, such as the impact of Brexit, the ongoing recruitment problems onto trustee boards, and the overall challenge of getting generally unskilled and untrained volunteers to take responsibility for the often huge challenges of running and steering charities. But I thought I’d just take the opportunity to tackle just a few.

Have a good Christmas break and “Governance Weekly” will be back in January 2018.

Bonus Christmas Present for anyone who read this far…

A piece of interesting reading for anyone involved in the charitable sector. Sir Stephen Bubb gave a lecture in 2017 on the “History of Charity”. It’s available as a .pdf here and it really goes all the way back in time and then comes up to date to explore how the concept of charity and then the implementation of Charities took place over the centuries in this country. Something to read after you’ve had a few too many mince pies…

Karl Elliott, Development Manager
karl@vanel.org.uk / 01472 287548
www.vanel.org.uk/governance – for an overview of our resources and information
www.vanel.org.uk/trustees – for the Trustee Network blog and information
www.vanel.org.uk/aboutgovernance – private discussion space for trustees
@aboutgovernance