Trustees urged to keep asking questions

The Charity Commission has issued a 15-question checklist – covering strategy, financial health, governance and making the best use of resources – to help charity trustees review how their organisation is performing and ensure that it is prepared for the future.

The commission, which published the checklist on 10 March, said it was important that trustees regularly review their charity’s effectiveness and ask themselves questions on issues its structure, the challenges it might facing and potential changes they might be thinking of implementing.

It said: “It’s especially important to review how your charity operates in changing or uncertain economic climates. No charity is immune to financial problems and sadly there are occasions when, despite the best efforts of the trustees and staff, a charity encounters problems so serious that it has to close.”

It said one example of this was the BeatBullying Group, which went into liquidation in November 2014. The commission has published an operational compliance report highlighting the issues involved in the case and concluding that the loss of anticipated funding had been too serious a problem for the charity to continue, “despite the best efforts of the trustees and staff, who continued to work amidst much uncertainty.”

The commission said that in a difficult economic climate, it was difficult for charities to maintain a secure financial future, which was why trustees need to ask “tough questions” from the outset and regularly consider the progress of their plans.

It added: “One way you can do this is to refer to our checklist of 15 key questions whenever you meet as trustees to make decisions about the way your charity operates.

“Even if things seem to be going well, don’t become complacent – make sure you regularly consider your charity’s financial resilience. For example, your business plan should set out how you will manage identified risks like an over-reliance on grants or a lack of reserves.”

Moore Thompson’s charities team understands the challenges trustees face and has set up a trustee forum, which regularly brings together local charity trustees to network and benefit from each other’s experience.

Meetings take place at Hills Department Store, Spalding, from 7.30am on the second Tuesday of alternate months and last around an hour, including a continental breakfast.

All trustees are welcome to attend. For more information, please contact Moore Thompson charity specialist Ken Maggs at kenneth@mooret.co.uk.