Friday 20 November 2009

Governance; getting our act together?

We are helping to organise a meeting of people interested in reforming charity regulation and governance in York next month. (Thursday, 10 December between 10.30 and 12.00)

The meeting is part of the project by Kevin Carey, Chairman of the RNIB, to set up a Progressive Governance Association.

Carey gave a speech at our Annual Conference earlier this month in which he called for charities to be allowed to pay their Trustees and for Executives to be permitted to sit on Boards.

Giving Trustees higher status in an organisation than Executives encouraged charities to prioritise strategy over implementation is Carey's message.

"You can't do implementation without strategy, but the most important thing for any organisation is implementation," he told TS magazine.

Carey believes that charity regulation should focus on improving performance rather than legal compliance.

"Most people don't have problems with fraudulent fundraisers or bent accountants, which is what the Charity Commission is most worried about."

"The biggest failing of the sector is that we are all underperforming. The sector is good at being critical, but not about the right things."

Carey said he had not thought about the sanctions a new Regulator should have, but he doubted the need for any. He said he hadn't made his mind up about who should decide on charitable status. But Company Law should be sufficient to police charity accounts.

That should be a lively meeting. If you are a Chair of Trustees do go. Contact Andrew Fellowes, Policy Officer at ACEVO North ( for more details on how to attend.

And it is sad to report on the death of Winifred Tumim at 73, a stalwart of the sector and a keen advocate of governance reform and a more professional sector in her time Chairing RNID and NCVO.

In 1992 the Charity Commission and NCVO set up a working group under Winifred to look at the role of Trustees. In the Obituaries it reports she had said her concern was a sector run by people afflicted with "mad Chair disease". The Group concluded that two thirds of Trustees had no idea of their duties and liabilities.

She had a great deal to do with arguing for the reform of Charity Law.

Perhaps Kevin Carey is now taking the need for a radical agenda forward in the 21st Century, albeit in ways Winifred may not have recognised. It is clear that the need for reform remains , whatever advances have been made since the days of Winifred in her prime. There Is always a need for a radical voice, especially when much of the sector establishment seems to be complacent of the need for change.

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