Charity Trustees and their Responsibilities
25 January 2016 by Ashton Carter
The PACAC (Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee) has recently concluded, as part of its charity fundraising controversy report (being its fourth report from the 2016/16 session), that the predominant cause of the significant charity fundraising scandals from the summer of 2015, was in fact the failure of the trustees of said charities involved in the controversies, to fulfil their responsibilities.
Such report from the PACAC gives a stern warning to all charities and their trustees that the Etherington proposals represent a form of ‘last chance saloon’ for self-regulation of charity fundraising, failing which, formal, legislative governance will be recommended to be introduce to regulate such activities.
As a result the Charities Commission has reconsidered, updated and re-issued its guidance on the duties of trustees, with particular focus on fundraising issues and responsibilities, a move which was welcomed by PACAC.
The predominant feature of such guidance is that charity trustees need to ensure that their charities always act in accordance with their charitable aims, objects and values, as well as to take all possible measures to ensure that sub-contractors and associated personnel do so as well.
Should the latest round of guidance not prove effective enough, it is proposed by the PACAC that there should be greater transparency in annual reports and accounts of charities, with a particular focus on fundraising and stronger regulation in this regard.
However, the PACAC does accept that the onus relies predominantly with the trustees of such charities, given that stronger legislative regulation is no substitute for personal integrity, attitude and behaviour of charitable trustees.
As a result of the above, the public eye is firmly fixed upon the charitable sector and the trustees operating within all such charities.
There is dormant legislation from 2008 which has not yet been implemented and which would allow the government and its regulators, including the Information Commissioner to enforce laws protecting use of personal data. Whilst for the time being the Charities Commission continues to monitor the position, it appears the landscape for charities and their trustees could be subject to increasing degrees of change over the next few months and years.
If you are a trustee of or otherwise involved in a charity or not-for-profit organisation and would like advice in relation to your role and responsibility as a trustee, the governance of your charity or any other remit of the charity sector, please contact the Corporate Commercial Team of Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP, who specialise in such niche charity work, on 01245 584515 or email [email protected].