The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, is marking the fifth annual National Trustees’ Week (10-16 November 2014) by urging charities to undertake regular board skills audits and ‘mind the gap’ in their trustee boards. Building a picture of the skills of the current board is essential to ascertain whether the trustees have the knowledge and experience needed to meet the goals of the charity, or whether they need further support and resources to help run their organisation effectively. The regulator is urging charities to fill ‘skills gaps’ by either offering internal training for trustees, or, if hiring, to ensure they recruit from wide, varied networks.
Trustees are the people with ultimate responsibility for directing the business of their charity. As such, it is important that they collectively hold a variety of skills, attributes and personal experience. These will come from a wide range of perspectives including employment experience, family backgrounds or general interests. Carrying out a skills audit and keeping a skills register enables the board to assess how it may be affected by retiring trustees or new challenges the charity is facing, and enables them to respond quickly when they do need to recruit.
Charity Commission research* found that the top three priority areas in which boards would like to increase their level of knowledge or expertise were fundraising (29%), charity law regulation (24%) and strategic planning and business development (10%). Offering training opportunities in such areas has the dual benefit of improving the governance of organisations (51% of those questioned felt the role of their trustees was primarily strategic) and providing the individual with skills and experience valuable to their professional development. Trustees’ Week aims to increase awareness of these benefits, and over 40 events are already planned across the UK in support of the campaign, aimed at helping charities recruit or provide training on a wide variety of topics.
Paula Sussex, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, said:
Trustees’ Week is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the vital work trustees do. As the backbone of their charities, it’s really important that trustees collectively hold a breadth of skills, experience and perspectives, and regularly make time to step back and evaluate where there may be gaps.
It’s also vital current trustees receive regular training to enable them to continually build on their knowledge and govern their organisations effectively. Poor governance is sadly something we see regularly in charities, sometimes as a result of a skills deficit or trustees failing to understand their duties.
Trustees’ ability to make contacts in the community, give fresh insight into beneficiaries’ needs, or develop new ways of carrying out work are also an important part of the contribution they make to a charity overall.
For information on Trustees’ Week events, see the events listings on the Trustees’ Week website.
The Charity Commission is hosting a live Twitter Q&A for Trustees’ Week, on Tuesday 11 November, 12.30-1.30pm. This ‘Twitter Clinic’ is an opportunity for existing trustees, potential trustees, advisers or charity staff to ask regulatory questions about trusteeship. Worried about how to manage conflicts of interest? Confused about trustee expenses? Unsure how to recruit new board members? Interested in trusteeship but not sure where to begin? Tweet your questions to @ChtyCommission in advance, or join in on the day. Remember to use the #trusteesweek hashtag!
Notes to editors
*Birth of a charity: Governance of organisations seeking registered charitable status is an online survey that ran from August 2011 to August 2012, a period during which over 6,000 new register applications were submitted. 667 applicants completed the questionnaire. The report provides an insight into the experiences and perceptions of those applying to register as a charity, and their work with trustees.
- Trustees’ Week is a joint campaign between the commission and a range of partners within the charitable sector and beyond. The campaign aims to raise awareness of trusteeship and to encourage people from all backgrounds and ages to consider becoming trustees. It also encourages charities to recruit more widely for trustees, and use a range of different methods to ensure a diverse board. For more information, visit the Trustees’ Week website, www.trusteesweek.org.uk. Follow the campaign on Twitter using @trusteesweek.
- For more information about the organisations behind Trustees’ Week, please visit www.trusteesweek.org.uk or the websites of the organizations themselves:
- The Charity Commission – www.gov.uk/charity-commission
- Small Charities Coalition – www.smallcharities.org.uk
- Getting on Board – http://www.gettingonboard.org/
- Honorary Treasurers Forum – http://www.honorarytreasurers.org.uk/
- ICAEW – www.icaew.com/volunteering
- NCVO – http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/governanceandleadership
- Reach Volunteering – http://www.reachskills.org.uk/
- NUS – www.nus.org.uk
- WCVA – www.wcva.org.uk
- Governance magazine – www.civilsociety.co.uk/governance
- Charity Finance Group – www.cfg.org.uk
- School Governor’s One Stop Shop – www.sgoss.org.uk
- Institute of Fundraising – www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk
- SCVO – www.scvo.org.uk
- OSCR – www.oscr.org.uk
- The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales.
- Our mission is to be the independent registrar and regulator of charities in England and Wales, acting in the public’s interest, to ensure that:
- charities know what they have to do
- the public know what charities do
- charities are held to account
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