Cobseo

The Cobseo Governance Self-Reporting Tool: three years on

With thoughts turning to preparations for the next governance self-reporting cycle, launching shortly, it is timely to review the progress made over the past three years, and the lessons learned along the way.

Members may recall that the Cobseo Governance Support Team emerged from the former Chair’s recognition of the importance of retaining the public’s trust and confidence, and his wish to be proactive in assuring good governance standards across the sector. The Governance Support Team liaised with experts and stakeholders to produce guidance documents on the principles set out in the Charity Governance Code; and specific regulatory requirements in areas such as Safeguarding, Data Protection, and Fundraising. This led to the launch of the Cobseo Governance Self-Reporting Tool in February 2019, following extensive consultation with Members. It was created as a user-friendly checklist for Trustees to be assured that their responsibilities, as set out in the Charity Governance Code, are being met by breaking down the Code into manageable sections and identifying any areas for improvement.

Members were encouraged to share their results confidentially with the Governance Support Team and by doing this, the Team were able to offer individual support or assistance where appropriate. This also enabled the Team to analyse the anonymised data provided by the membership to identify trends and learn important lessons about the Service Charity Sector.

The challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic led the intended 2-year cycle being deferred for a further year; but as part of a broader effort, by the Cobseo Office Team, to support Members during this difficult time, the Governance Team continued to engage with Members online to provide support and advice, reassuring Members that the support on offer from Cobseo was a benefit of membership rather than an attempt to police the Sector or seek to establish any kind of accreditation scheme. Following the successful role out to Full and Regimental Members, the Governance Tool was also extended to Associates constituted as Charities in June 2020; additionally, similar checklists were developed for Community Interest Companies, Not-For-Profits and Social Purpose Businesses.

Over 75% of Full Members had completed the Tool by December 2021, which is when the first cycle closed. One of the key takeaways was the impact for smaller charities, who lack the in-house expertise of larger charities, and welcomed the opportunity to sense-check their own governance improvement plans. Some Members have already integrated the Cobseo Self-Reporting Tool within their own organisations and regularly refer to it for their internal reviews. The Governance Team has also benefited from engaging with larger Charities, both to identify examples of best practice, and seek out ways of extending it through joint working to benefit the Sector as a whole. The Governance Tool and Aide Memoires are being refreshed to reflect developments over the last few years, ahead of the launch of the next self-reporting cycle.

Roy Brown and Natalie Chambers make up the Governance Support Team and they look forward to continuing engagement with Cobseo Members to identify ways to continue supporting the Sector. They will be in touch soon but in the meantime, if you have any queries they can be reached via governance@cobseo.org.uk.

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