Leading by example has never been so important for charity trustees

The importance of living up to stated values and having the right culture are firmly on the agenda for charity trustees. The sector is passing through an intense time of public scrutiny when the actions of charities are put under the microscope – trust in the sector is reportedly low according to the Charity Commission’s report ‘Trust in Charities 2018’, which found that more than 4 in 10 members of the public feel that their trust in charities has decreased in the past two years. A result of this is less donations and, if there is less money available to our charities, their viability and sustainability is affected. Ultimately, it’s the beneficiaries who lose out.

Morally, trustees are under an obligation to ensure their organisation acts correctly and appropriately. Charities must work towards their enduring purpose by applying ethical values to their work. They must, at all times, have their beneficiaries in mind, making decisions, managing risks that drive their social purpose. The Commission’s report highlights that "the public want charities to demonstrate good stewardship of funds, to live their values, and to demonstrate impact.”

Essentially, trustees have the gratification and position of responsibility – get this right and trust in the sector will return.  

How can trustees ensure they discharge their responsibilities appropriately? 

The charity corporate governance code provides a good platform to go back to governance basics. 

It’s perhaps not surprising that the principle on integrity is followed immediately by the principle on decision making, risk and control. Integrity underpins our decision making processes. To act with integrity means we adopt values and create a culture that helps our organisation achieve its charitable purpose. If the “public expect trustworthy behaviour and proven impact” then charity trustees must get to grips with their culture.

Culture is not only the sole responsibility of the chief executive and it must not be allowed to be designed by accident. Trustees can determine their organisation’s culture by making it deliberate, embedded and integrated within systems, processes and ways of working. Indeed,  given culture’s importance, it should be top of the board’s agenda when thinking about how to implement strategy and how to achieve impact.

For further information or support embedding culture within your charity, get in touch or contact your usual Moore Stephens adviser.  

Emerging issues seminar
Want to keep updated with the emerging issues in your sector? On 29 November, we’ll be highlighting the governance, tax and accounting matters that you’ll want to have on your radar for next year at our latest seminar aimed at charity trustees and leadership teams, as well as those responsible for finance. For more information and to register for your free place, click here

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