‘Here to help’: Commission launches new push on trustee guides as sector faces challenging year

The Charity Commission is launching the next stage of its campaign to raise awareness of core trustee duties and guidance available as the sector faces challenges ahead.

Today (2 February 2023), the Charity Commission is launching the next stage of its campaign to raise awareness of core trustee duties and the guidance available to charities.

The Commission has developed a collection of short and engaging guidance on issues ranging from safeguarding people to managing conflicts of interest. Dubbed the ‘5-Minute Guides’, the collection serves as a basic toolkit for trustees who are managing the many demands of running a charity.

The latest phase of the campaign, running from 2nd February to 16th March, aims to raise awareness of, and boost use of, the 5-minute guides. The regulator hopes this will increase knowledge and understanding of essential trustee duties. This comes as charities face additional challenges due to cost-of-living pressures.

The Commission’s latest research shows that around 98% of trustees feel ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ confident in managing or governing their charity but, when questioned on basic role requirements, on average, trustees answered just 7 out of 10 questions correctly – demonstrating a knowledge gap that could lead to unintentional governance failings.

The core suite of 5-minute guides cover the following subject areas:

  • Delivering purpose – advice on how to use your charity’s governing document, how to deliver on your charity’s purposes and the law.
  • Managing finances – advice on how to ensure your charity’s money is safe, properly used and accounted for.
  • Conflicts of interest – advice on how to identify and deal with conflicts of interest in your charity.
  • Making decisions – advice on how to make valid trustee decisions that are in your charity’s best interests.
  • Reporting information –advice on how and what you need to report to the Commission.
  • Safeguarding people – advice on your responsibilities to keep everyone who comes into contact with your charity safe from harm.
  • Political activity & campaigning – advice for charities that want to support, or oppose, a change in government policy or the law.

Paul Latham, Director of Communications and Policy at the Charity Commission, said:

“We know that this will be a tough year for charities. When approaching difficult decisions, we want trustees to feel certain of the rules in these uncertain times. Our 5-minute guides act as a core syllabus – offering trustees engaging, informative content covering the basics all trustees should know. With advice readily available, we encourage trustees to refresh their knowledge and fill any gaps so that they can best serve their charities – and those who rely on them.”

The Commission’s guidance is not yet the first port of call for many trustees. Commission research shows that they often first seek advice from a fellow trustee or colleague (70%) or look online (59%). However, an overwhelming majority of trustees who use the regulator’s guidance find it helpful (94%) and most (89%) trustees who have used the 5-minute guides would recommend them to others.

The previous campaign phase in 2022 saw the percentage of surveyed trustees aware of the 5 Minute Guides rise from 23% to 40%. Furthermore, of the trustees who have read one or more of the 5-minute guides, 39% reported to have taken or intend to take an action as a result of reading them.

The full collection of 5-minute guides can be found at: Advice and guidance for Charity Trustees – Getting the most out of being a charity trustee

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