Quaker A-Z: F is for Fear

What do you fear?

This might seem an odd question for a charity management blog!

However, Trustees, volunteers, and employees often tell me that they did something – or didn’t do something – because they were afraid of doing the wrong thing. Or were afraid of legal or other repercussions.

 

Being unfit as a Trustee

The Charity Commission has quite clear guidelines on who is fit and proper to be a trustee, and what would disqualify someone. If you have read these through and have a process in place to ensure that Trustees confirm that they are still fit and proper regularly there shouldn’t be a problem.

The Charity Commission does have the power to discretionary powers to disqualify people for up to fifteen years:

‘The discretionary disqualification power enables the commission, by way of order, where the statutory criteria are met, to disqualify a person for a period of up to 15 years.

In doing so, the commission is acting to protect either all charities, specific charities or classes of charities from being run by persons whose conduct shows that they are unfit to be trustees. A disqualification order will aim to protect trustees, employees and volunteers of charities as well as the beneficiaries, donors and the public.’

To read the guidance in full click here.

Not knowing your legal duties can induce fear

When talking to Trustees one problem I’ve come across is that often Trustees haven’t understood what their legal requirements are. The Charity Commission produced research ‘Taken on Trust‘ which showed how widespread is that problem.

Trustees have six main duties:
  • Ensure your charity is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit.
  • Comply with your charity’s governing document and the law.
  • Act in your charity’s best interests.
  • Manage your charity’s resources responsibly.
  • Act with reasonable care and skill.
  • Ensure your charity is accountable.
The Charity Commission guidance describes how good trustees make informed decisions.
 
It is good practice to review those six main duties regularly – not necessarily at the beginning or end of the year, where they might be treated as a tick box. Or where people say, ‘well of course we did!’ and reuse the previous year’s TAR.
 
Instead add them to a high level annual review of the charity, looking both at compliance and governance, and then how you record that you do these things.
 

Not knowing what you don't know

Remember – you are aren’t alone! The Charity Commission produces helpful guidance, has a helpline and there are multiple places to get help and advice no matter what your worry is.
 

Your first port of call should be other Trustees in your organisation. Or perhaps in an associated organisation. If you’re a trustee of a charity that is connected to a larger group – that’s another source of accurate and appropriate information. For example Quaker Trustees can start at Quaker.org.uk/trustees for advice, draft policies and procedures etc.

A good place to start is with the Charity Commission’s own 5 minute guides to being a Trustee.

Calm worries & reduce fear

Having a frank discussion with the full Trustee body can be a good place to start if you have concerns.

Ensuring that incoming Trustees are onboarded and supported appropriately, and that everyone knows where information is kept

The MBS ‘Clerks Calendar‘ spreadsheet is one way to both remind you of what to check and then record what you’ve checked. It’s available for free in our resources library.
 
Our April Webinar is all about gathering data and ensuring you know what you need to record, how you will record it and then how you can show that you’ve done it! For more details click on our events page. When you sign up for the webinar, you can download a copy of our Data Audit Pack to get you started.
Wendrie Heywood

Wendrie Heywood

MBS Founder

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