New Charity Governance Code

By Dan Francis, governance consultant, NCVO

When I came to speak at Community Impact Bucks’ trustee conference back in January, we had just launched a draft version of the new governance code and were consulting on the changes we were proposing.  I’d like to thank everyone at the event for their constructive feedback on the code and to those that fed in via the online survey.

Having now analysed over 200 consultation responses and made a series of edits to the draft code I am delighted that earlier this month we launched the final Charity Governance Code. This code is intended to set a range of standards of governance which charities and their trustees can aspire to and work toward.

The new code represents a collective sector contribution to strengthening charity governance with the insight of our chair Rosie Chapman and the cross-sector steering group. I hope you will agree the code is an opportunity for boards to reflect on, and improve, their governance.

There are seven principles and a foundation which make up the new code.

With the support of our funders, Clothworkers Foundation and Barrow Cadbury Trust, we have also developed a new, simple to use, free to access website: This allows trustees and users to easily access the new code.

Recommended practice

The principles, rationale and outcomes are intended to apply universally to charities, while we have developed varied recommended practice depending on a charity’s income.

There are a range of significant changes to the previous code, including:

  • an expectation that the board will review its own performance and that of individual trustees, including the chair, every year, with an external evaluation for larger organisations every three years
  • that no trustee should serve more than nine years without good reason and that term limits are important for accountability
  • thinking carefully about how boards recruit a diverse range of trustees with the skills and experience required to lead a charity
  • boards involving stakeholders in key decisions and operating with the presumption of openness
  • emphasis on the role of the chair and vice chair in supporting and achieving good governance
  • increased oversight for large charities when dealing with subsidiary companies, registers of interests and third parties such as fundraising agencies or commercial ventures
  • that the board evaluate a charity’s impact by measuring and assessing results, outputs and outcomes.

Adopting the code

I would recommend that trustees use the code as part of their board development exercises. The code is not a legal requirement, it is deliberately aspirational, and it will without doubt be a stretch to achieve some elements of its recommended practice. This is intentional as we want the code to be a tool for continuous improvement rather than a tick-box exercise.

The code encourages trustees to work toward the principles and outcomes of the code by either applying the recommended practice or explaining what they have done instead or why they haven’t applied it.

At NCVO we have a range of tools and support to help you in working with the code, including:

I am also sure that Community Impact Bucks’ will support boards hoping to use the code.

At its core, this code is intended as a practical tool to help trustees improve governance and increase the effectiveness of their charities – I hope you find it useful.

Dan Francis is NCVO’s governance consultant. For more regular updates follow @mynameisdanfran or @NCVO on Twitter.




Launch of the Charity Governance Code

By Helen Cracknell, lead support for groups, Community Impact Bucks

The Charity Governance Code  launched in mid-July has been developed through cross-sector collaboration and consultation over the last year. The result is a practical tool to help charities and their trustees develop high standards of governance. Although it is not a regulatory requirement, the need for charities to rebuild public trust and aspire to higher standards of governance has probably never been greater, given some of the high-profile issues which have been in the headlines recently.

The aim of the Code is to help charities and their trustees develop these high standards of governance. As a sector, we owe it to our beneficiaries, stakeholders and supporters to demonstrate exemplary leadership and governance.

The diagram below shows the key principles, building on the foundation of understanding of the trustees’ roles and responsibilities and commitment to high standards of governance.  Each principle in the code has a brief description, a rationale (the reasons why it is important), key outcomes (what you would expect to see if the principle were adopted) and recommended practice (what a charity might do to implement the principle).

There are a range of significant changes to the previous code, including:

  • an expectation that the board will review its own performance and that of individual trustees, including the chair, every year, with an external evaluation for larger organisations every three years
  • that no trustee should serve more than nine years without good reason and that term limits are important for accountability
  • thinking carefully about how boards recruit a diverse range of trustees with the skills and experience required to lead a charity
  • boards involving stakeholders in key decisions and operating with the presumption of openness
  • emphasis on the role of the chair and vice chair in supporting and achieving good governance
  • increased oversight for large charities when dealing with subsidiary companies, registers of interests and third parties such as fundraising agencies or commercial ventures
  • that the board evaluate a charity’s impact by measuring and assessing results, outputs and outcomes.

In the Charity Commission’s response to the consultation their Director of Policy and Communication Sarah Atkinson, said: ‘We intend to continue to endorse and promote [the Code] as the standard of good governance practice to which all charities should aspire (unless some other Code takes precedence), following and applying its principles proportionately to their circumstances. ’The Charity Commission also said it will be withdrawing its guidance ‘Hallmarks of an effective charity’ (CC10) and will refer charities to the Charity Governance Code instead. See her blog for more comment.

Fundraising and Charity Law Updates: Is Your Charity Compliant?

By Rosie Brass, senior solicitor, IBB Solicitors

Whilst news about data protection and consent has been the focus of the fundraising arena recently  and charities have been busy planning for compliance with the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), developments with the new Fundraising Regulator (‘Regulator’), which took over the regulation of charitable fundraising in July 2016, also deserve our attention.

New Requirements for Fundraising Agreements

All fundraising agreements with paid fundraisers (‘Professional Fundraisers’) and businesses that represent donations are being made to a charity (‘Commercial Participators’) must now comply with the new requirements which stem from the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016 (‘Act’). Whilst the new requirements came into force on the 1st November 2016, the grace period of 5 months granted by the Regulator (for organisations to get their paperwork in order before they are in breach of the new law) expired on the 31st March 2017.

The new requirements are that the compulsory written agreements between charities and Professional Fundraisers and/or Commercial Participators must include extra information covering:

  • The scheme for regulating fundraising or recognised fundraising standards that will apply to the Professional Fundraiser or Commercial Participator in carrying out the agreement (such as the Code of Fundraising Practice);
  • How the Professional Fundraiser or Commercial Participator will protect the public, including vulnerable people, from unreasonably intrusive or persistent fundraising approaches and undue pressure to donate; and
  • How charities will monitor the Professional Fundraiser’s or Commercial Participator’s compliance with these requirements.

As a result of the new requirements, any new agreements must now incorporate the above points and existing agreements will need to be amended too.

The Fundraising Levy

The Regulator has issued formal letters and invoices to more than 2000 of the largest charities (whose annual fundraising expenditure is more than £100,000) requesting payment of a fee for “regulatory services”. The levy is required to fund the Regulator and the Charity Commission has confirmed that payment of it is a proper use of charitable funds. Technically however, charities are not obliged to pay the levy as payment is voluntary and so each charity must consider, bearing in mind its own circumstances and the potential reputational consequences, whether payment of the levy is appropriate. The Minister for Civil Society has nevertheless warned charities that if insufficient voluntary payments are forthcoming, the reserve powers in the Act  will be used to make payment of the levy a legal requirement.

Registration with the Fundraising Regulator

Registered charities can now apply to register with the Fundraising Regulator. Charities which have already paid the fundraising levy will already be registered and all other registered charities can pay an annual administration fee of £50. Registration means that charities have made a commitment to donors and the public as set out in the Fundraising Promise that their fundraising activities are “legal, open, honest and respectful”, and that they agree to comply with standards for fundraising in the Code of Fundraising Practice.  In return, charities will receive a registration pack containing the ‘registered with’ badge in several formats which can be applied to all fundraising materials, performing a similar role to the Fundraising Standard Board’s non-redundant tick . As with payment of the levy, registration is not compulsory. Charities are therefore free to decide that registration is not appropriate but in any event trustees are still under a legal duty to ensure that all fundraising activities carried out in their charity’s name comply with the current legislation and good practice requirements and are in line with their charity’s values.

The New Fundraising Preference Service

The Regulator has made its final decisions on the development of the new Fundraising Preference Service (‘FPS’) and has announced that it is expected in the summer. It is now clear that the FPS will enable members of the public to register that they no longer want to be contacted by specific charities for fundraising purposes, by re-setting their fundraising preferences. This small reset button is a departure from the big red button which would have allowed people to opt-out of communications from all charities which was originally envisaged and could have risked individuals unwittingly blocking charities they would have otherwise been happy to support. Registration is likely to be time limited to 24 months, and the Regulator will ensure that charities are notified of people opting out, which will helpfully avoid the need to check suppression lists as was initially feared.

Some elements of the FPS will however continue to cause widespread concern in the sector:

  • It will apply to all charity fundraising communications even if the core purpose of the communication is not to raise funds. This means that, for example, inviting people to events and including links to donations or appeals in the signature of emails will be caught.
  • The final proposals have removed the opportunity for charities to check in with pre-existing supporters to make sure that they no longer wished to hear from them. Some slight comfort has since been provided by the Regulator here as they have indicated that a charity may still be able to contact a committed donor in relation to direct debits and other matters where it is in its legitimate interests to do so, and has also indicated a willingness to work with charities to resolve any problems in this area.

Rosie Brass is a senior solicitor in IBB’s charities team. For further information on  charity fundraising regulations or any other charity  law matter   please contact our  solicitors  on 01895 207290 or email


Do small charities matter?

By Helen Cracknell, lead support for groups at Community Impact Bucks

As Small Charity Week (19-24th June 2017) approaches I have been reflecting on the fact that when we talk about charities most people tend to think about their favourite cause or some national, well known charities – whether they are known for positive reasons or not.  But small charities are quite different. When I asked my partner what came to mind when he thought about a small charity he said “something local, run by volunteers.” My own personal experience of small charities, for example both as a member and then volunteering with a local job club after redundancy, is exactly like this. In my role with Community Impact Bucks as Lead Support to Groups most of the people who come to us for help are small, local groups either entirely run by volunteers or with very few paid staff.

NCVO defines small charities* as under £100,000 income, which represent 83% of the total. As most of these charities are local (some 70-80%) they have a fantastically important role in dealing with grass roots issues and making a positive difference to the vulnerable people in our communities. However, classifying charities just by the size of their income doesn’t give you the real picture.  It’s the impact they are making that really matters.

Just imagine what life would be like if these small charities weren’t there: for people who are depending upon them for their trip to the local social club in the community bus; for help getting back on their feet after bereavement, redundancy or other life-changing events; having a local hall or community building where people can attend local activities and events; activities which bring different parts of the community together; and all the other ways in which individuals and communities benefit from their work. And imagine this scenario against the backdrop of the squeeze on public services, which hits the vulnerable in our societies even harder. So I believe that small charities matter much more than we perhaps understand or give credit for.

Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by the scale of problems around us which stops us from doing anything at all. I have always loved the story of the young girl walking along a beach where thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish.” After a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”

So, if you run or work in a small charity make the most of Small Charity Week to get your own charity recognised for the great work you are doing. And if you want to get involved in a small charity you won’t need to look far for groups of people who would really appreciate your energy and skills. In the words of the anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

*A focus on small charities NCVO UK Civil Society Almanac

Six Steps to Volunteering Heaven!

By Hazel Finney, Lead for Volunteering, Community Impact Bucks

Trying to land your ideal volunteer role is a bit like dating.  You have a perfect opportunity in mind, a mental “check list”, and heaps of expectation.  You meet a few organisations all full of enthusiasm, but sometimes the chemistry just isn’t there, the reality is not all it’s cracked up to be, and your volunteering bubble is well and truly burst!

So, how do you keep motivated and scoop the prize with your pride intact?  Well, like all things worth having, it may take a little time, perseverance and a side order of good luck. Sometimes you just need to be in the right place at the right time, but here are my 6 top tips to help you find your perfect match:

  1. Know yourself, and be clear about what you’re looking for

You might not be embarking on something as serious as a new job, but you’re preparing to make a change in your life for the better.  It’s worth taking half an hour or so to sit down and think about the following: What do you hope to achieve from volunteering?  There are a whole host of volunteering opportunities out there – what skills do you want to use or gain?  How much time do you have to volunteer: are you looking for a one-off volunteering role or something more longer term?  What type of charity/community group are you interested in?  Are you happy being micro-managed, or do you want the freedom to take charge and do things your way?  If you really relish responsibility, being a Trustee is something to seriously consider – it could help your personal development and leadership skills.

  1. Ensure your CV or list of skills are tip top

At the end of the day, we all need to sell ourselves to other people and demonstrate why we’re best suited to do something.  Why are you the best person for a particular role?  What are your strengths (and weaknesses)?  If you’re interested in a role requiring specialist skills, for example, fundraising, marketing/digital communications, business planning or finance, why do you stand out from the crowd – and what qualifications do you have?

  1. Widen your search as much as possible

From Volunteering Bucks, the online volunteer portal for Buckinghamshire, you can access Do-it, the national volunteer recruitment website, which is a great place to start looking for a role – create a profile, select your preferences, and get searching!  We’ve developed a handy guide to help you.

If you want to offer specialist skills (e.g. marketing, IT, finance), or are looking for a Trustee role, Community Impact Bucks is a proud partner of Reach Volunteering, the national organisation that connects charities and not-for-profits with skilled and experienced volunteers, and we’re now live streaming the latest Buckinghamshire-based roles on our volunteering portal: Skilled roles, Trustee roles.

You can also check out our portal for access to other recruitment sites that you might find useful.

Don’t forget to also look at local publications/noticeboards if you’re wanting a role close to where you live.

  1. Take heed of red flags!

If you’ve applied for a role and you don’t hear back after a week, it’s worth contacting them again – there may be a genuine reason for this.  If there’s still nothing, steer well clear – they’re obviously not worthy of you; we all deserve a little respect.  It’s time to move on and not waste any more time.

  1. Did you get ‘the feeling’?

If you are asked by an organisation to meet them, how did it go?  Were they friendly and welcoming? Did they give you time to say what you wanted?  Were you able to just be yourself and let your natural enthusiasm shine through?  Did they explain the next steps with a timeframe?  If you left feeling a bit flat, then the role probably isn’t for you – but if things just felt right then this is a really good sign – you could be on a winning streak!

  1. Coming on-board

Congratulations – you’ve been offered the role!  If you accept it, this is a really crucial stage as you are undoubtedly fully committed, and being let down now could take the wind out of your sails.  But – if you’re sent through any paperwork promptly, and given a thorough induction including any necessary training, then it sounds like you’ve hit the jackpot!  Relax, and enjoy the journey.

Good luck!  I hope you find what you’re looking for!


Struggling to recruit volunteers, and need some advice?

By Hazel Finney, Lead for Volunteering, Community Impact Bucks

Let’s face it – sometimes recruiting, managing and retaining volunteers can be damned hard work – especially if you’re not involved with a large national charity with a healthy budget and a ‘sexy’ cause that really tugs at the heart strings. In the grand scheme of things, you might not be saving lives, but at a local level, the charity or community group you work or volunteer for could still be having a massive, life enhancing, impact. Take the man who, due to a weekly activity group, is dealing more effectively with his depression, or the woman who is feeling better now there’s a volunteer driver to take her to her hospital appointments. Remove all the voluntary organisations and the volunteers that facilitate their services at a county level, and suddenly you’re left with a massive deficit that will be noticed on the wider stage.

I meet a lot of switched on, driven, people in my job – well, you have to be to have the presence of mind and tenacity to start a charitable organisation from scratch, successfully diversify your funding streams, or have the gumption to leave a well paid job in the private sector to do something that really matters to you. But everyone needs a helping hand from time to time, especially when this involves support around volunteers, the lifeblood of the voluntary sector.

If you could benefit from advice about involving volunteers, Community Impact Bucks can help. We’re the nationally accredited Volunteer Centre for Buckinghamshire, and so know a thing or two about volunteering. Whether you just have a query that requires a quick email or phone call, or a more complex concern, there is a variety of support available:

Visit our website

– Call us on 0300 111 1250

– Email us on

– Attend a FREE 45 minute advice surgery slot: the next one on 8 June is full up, but the next ones are on 12 July (Winslow), and 16 August (Amersham)

– Attend a half or full day masterclass: next one on 22 August in South Bucks.

Use this Volunteers’ Week to take stock, and think about asking for help if you need it – from that niggling question, to a problem which is beginning to feel insurmountable, we can’t promise to work miracles, but sometimes it’s just good to talk!

Here’s what some of our service users have had to say:

“I thought the pace and variety of activities was really good and think the model forms will be really valuable.” St. Francis Children Society

“Really well run workshop.” Carers Bucks

“I am very pleased to announce that working with CIB, we have at STARS/Oasis Partnership managed to recruit a volunteer to fulfil our Caretaker position. It was after attending one of the volunteer surgeries that CIB provide, they encouraged us to add our volunteer roles on to the Do-it website. This role will make a huge difference to the team in Aylesbury and hopefully provide our volunteer with the confidence and up-to-date work experience to move forward in getting a paid job.” The Oasis Partnership

“Thank you so much for meeting me last week, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to have someone listen to me! The information you have provided is very helpful and I intend to put in practice most of your suggestions over the next few weeks.” Anonymous

Foundations for a successful charity

By Nick Phillips, group chief executive, Community Impact Bucks

What is it that makes a successful organisation? It’s a question that I have been asked, in one form or another, by many people about to embark on the journey to start a charity or social enterprise or, in my past life, a business. It’s easy to trot out the tried and tested criteria we all know either from personal experience of the hundreds of books written about the subject of ‘good business’; vision, clear strategy, cashflow, knowing your customers…  and all that is as true of a charity as of a business.  However, there does seem to be a hierarchy of building blocks that are becoming increasingly apparent. We regularly see evidence of this “hierarchy” being absent in organisations that fail as we can see it clearly in the successes.

Debi, our brilliant projects leader, and her team recently carried out some research on successful community projects and it seems (early days in the research) that here too the same hierarchy holds true.

Firstly, it’s about leadership.  Without good leadership, however well-meaning the team and however great the idea, the organisation will not succeed long term. It sounds obvious, I know, but this is where the clarity of vision for the charity is so vital. It seems that where the chair, founder or CEO have that vision and passion, the organisation is more likely to succeed. Equally if that passion and vision are missing then the organisation can flounder.

The next layer in the hierarchy seems to be about the leadership having the right people around them. They can be volunteers or staff, but people who help carry the vison are filled with enthusiasm, energy and the right skills.

Next, it’s about the money and a plan to make money, not in quick bursts relying just on single grants but a long term sustainable plan. This can be from a structured service income or strategy for donations or a mix of all options.

The next level in the hierarchy is harder to define, but it seems that partnerships are vital. Sharing ideas, or even sharing resources, can be a game-changer to charities, particularly in the early stages of getting a charity off the ground.

The last identifiable feature seems to be going back to the ‘story’ I mentioned earlier, but this is the story of success – the impact. Being able to measure and articulate how the charity has changed lives or improved a situation is really important and the most successful organisations have got that down to a fine art.

I’ve identified these hierarchy priorities from anecdotal evidence, however it seems that research* backs up the findings. As most leadership in the community and charity sector starts with the trustees and chairs – who, let’s not forget, are volunteers – it is vital that we give trustees and chairs as much support as possible. That’s why CIB will be putting much of our resources behind helping charities find the right trustees with those leadership qualities. Later in the year I’ll run some events for chairs, trustees and CEO’s with speakers from different sectors and a chance to network and share ideas and support.

(By the way, I hope you’ve noticed that I’ve been talking about good leadership – no mention of “strong and stable” anywhere – we may have heard enough of that!)

*Third Sector online/Fidelity survey of charities

Volunteering – striking at the heart of life’s key moments – harness it!

By Hazel Finney, Lead for Volunteering, Community Impact Bucks

I love my job. Everyday I speak to new people and get an insight into the unique challenges or opportunities that they are facing. With Volunteers’ Week fast approaching at the beginning of June, I’ve been mulling over the role that volunteering plays for the individual in today’s society, and come to the decision that in these uncertain times it remains a constant force for the good when navigating life’s choppy waters.

Making the decision to volunteer might seem trivial to some – to others, it represents the first hurdle surmounted in choosing a new path in life, one which can signal fresh hope and the possibility of new beginnings. The other day I spoke to a mother whose daughter had had to leave college due to ill health, but was interested in volunteering with animals; following a 10 minute call, where I outlined some options, her relief was palpable. Then there are the calls from widowed pensioners who are interested in befriending opportunities, or the people who have been referred by job centres to gain experience for their CVs. On the flip side, I am frequently contacted by people who work full-time but are interested in fitting a Trusteeship or specialist skilled volunteering role into their busy schedules. All this shows that volunteering can play a key part in everyone’s lives – regardless of their age, life stage or financial situation. And if it goes right, can lead to benefits far beyond anything that money can buy.

I volunteered for several months when I was looking to move from the private to the not-for-profit sector – and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s a low risk strategy to try something new, and can pay dividends if everything falls into place.

Working for the Buckinghamshire Volunteer Centre, I also support charities and community groups that involve volunteers, so am able to see the volunteering experience from both sides. In the monthly advice surgeries and training courses that I run, I frequently hear from Volunteer Co-ordinators and Managers about their internal wranglings with the HR department or management team about how they involve volunteers, and how disruptive this can be to recruiting volunteers. With this in mind, the key message that I would like to impart to charities and community groups as we approach Volunteers’ Week is this: please ensure that you have a well thought out volunteer recruitment process in place with clearly designated responsibilities – don’t leave a potential volunteer hanging, and deal with all enquiries promptly and efficiently – you never know, you may have just stumbled across the one person who can really help to turn your organisation around.

Lords’ Recommendation on supporting Volunteer Management & the Future of Trusteeship

By Hazel Finney, Lead for Volunteering, Community Impact Bucks

Public acknowledgement of a pressing need

As Lead for Volunteering at Community Impact Bucks, the nationally accredited Volunteer Centre for Buckinghamshire, I was thrilled to read in the recent report, Stronger charities for a stronger society published by the House of Lords, that support for volunteer management was a key recommendation:

“Funders need to be more receptive to requests for resources for volunteer managers and co-ordinators, especially where charities are able to demonstrate a strong potential volunteer base.  We recommend that Government guidance on public sector grants and contracts is amended to reflect this and set a standard for other funders.”

Based on a submission from the Association of Volunteer Managers’* (AVM) response to the Select Committee’s call for evidence last year, this recommendation is excellent news, and in the words of Debbie Usiskin, Chair of AVM, “Communicating the value and need for volunteer management as a recognised discipline is at the core of what AVM was set up to achieve.  Having such high profile confirmation of this is very welcome.”

The committee’s own evidence gathering supports AVM’s submission by revealing the difficulty faced by small charities to find funding for volunteer managers – which is certainly an issue encountered by the myriad of small charities and community groups in Buckinghamshire.

The role of volunteers – key findings

The report also examines the changing nature of volunteers and volunteering, and I list some of the highlights below:

  • Karl Wilding, Head of Governance and Policy at NCVO (who was the keynote at one of our recent Trustee Conferences): “We have moved away from what you might call a substitute labour model, where people give 35 or 40 hours a week to the same organisation over the course of their life, to one that is much more flexible and footloose and is based on the idea of micro-volunteering where people give relatively small amounts of time”
  • Younger people are placing greater importance on volunteering as part of gaining skills to help their employment prospects – “self-interested altruism”. This takes the form of one-off actions and digital volunteering rather than traditional volunteering activities of older generations, however, there are opportunities to encourage younger people to participate in more traditional volunteering, in order to boost their credentials for employment
  • Martin Sime from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) said: “if you could persuade the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) to remove all barriers to unemployed people volunteering, you would do charities a favour because we would be able to get a whole lot of people engaged in our work in a way that was good for them and good for us.”

Need help attracting and keeping volunteers?  Book a place on our interactive workshop on 23 May in Chiltern District.  Or come and see us at one of our advice surgeries.

Trustees – key findings

The report emphasises the importance of trustee skills and experience for good governance, against the backdrop of new funding models, digital tools and increased expectations of accountability and transparency.  It is imperative that a wide range of skills are represented on trustee boards, with finance and fundraising being a high priority – this is something that I encounter often in my work with charity and community group boards in Buckinghamshire, which frequently struggle to recruit treasurers.  In addition, a key role for today’s line up is a “digital trustee” – in the words of Sarah Atkinson from the Charity Commission, “Digital trustees can contribute significantly to making sure boards have the skills they need.”

A concern is raised about the lack of diversity among trustees, which in turn limits boards’ experience and knowledge.  So great is this concern, that the report recommends that the Government holds a public consultation on the possibility of introducing a statutory duty to allow employees of organisations over a certain size to take a limited amount of time off work to perform trustee roles.  This is coupled with the assertion that employers should be encouraged to give greater recognition to trustee roles in recruitment and progression of their staff.

For help building a board for the digital age, as well as other support with your trustee recruitment, visit the national organisation Reach Volunteering, our new partner.

Interested in finding our more about the roles and responsibilities of trustees? You may find our CPD-accredited course on 31 May in Monks Risborough of interest.

*AVM is an independent membership body that aims to support, represent and champion people in volunteer management in England regardless of field, discipline or sector. It has been set up by and for people who manage volunteers.  A member of AVM for several years, I would strongly recommend that anyone who manages or co-ordinates volunteers should consider joining this organisation which boasts a growing network of nearly 500 members.  As well as running a highly successful annual conference in London boasting speakers of international repute, there is an events’ programme throughout the year, monthly newsletter, active LinkedIn forum and much more.  Information on joining can be found here.

How effective are your trustees? 10 practical tips.

By Lynne Gilbert, Lynne Gilbert Consulting

Lynne Gilbert
Lynne Gilbert

Most of us have a good understanding of the vital role trustees perform in shaping, steering and regulating the 194,00 plus charities in the UK.  However, did you know that up to 75% of trustees leave at the end of their first term in office, according to research from The Trustee Fellowship (  It surprised me and begs the question… WHAT IS GOING ON?

We can all come up with reasons why this is happening. It is too easy to point a finger at things we cannot control such as political, social and economic factors not forgetting personal reasons. But what about actions we do have control over and can take responsibility for?  With that very thought in mind I have come up with what I feel are 10 practical tips for getting the best from your trustees, winning over your new trustees and increasing the chances that trustees do not vote with their feet!!

This is by no means a definitive list. Whether you are an existing trustee, a new trustee, the chair or a chief executive this is relevant and of help. See this as a working document that you can measure your own board’s behaviour against, use it as a tool to stimulate discussion or as a guide to identify and implement change. Of course add your own thoughts and ideas. However, there is one vital element you must have to engage with this…..‘willingness’. How willing are you to have a thorough, objective and rational look at what is going on in your trustee board?  Can you look at the current situation and identify what needs to be better and take responsibility for doing something about it? The list is below. Take a look:

  1. Proper Preparation: Looking for a new trustee then be sure you know what you are looking for and why. We are talking skills audit, a well-defined recruitment, interview, induction and development process. Above all make sure before you start the formal process that they are right for this type of volunteer role and they are doing It for the right reasons.   Heed the words of Benjamin Franklin “If you fail to prepare you prepare to fail”
  2. Strong leadership: Effective, strong leadership will get results. How effective is the chair? Who is leading who on the board? What is the relationship between the chair and the chief executive relationship?
  3. High performing team: Invest time in turning a group of people into a high performing team.  It takes time and will not just happen from meeting 4/5 times a year.  Make sure your team is not one where 20% of the people do 80% of the work.  Everyone needs a role, responsibilities, deliverables and accountability.
  4. Understand  your legal requirements:  Prevent surprises for your trustees and ensure  that they understand and know what they are taking on and their legal responsibilities.  Make available all relevant up-to-date documentation, regulatory legislation, the governing document and terms of reference.
  5. Know all about your charity: Trustees have an obligation to be up-to-date and well informed about all aspects of their charity.  The more the trustees know about the work of the charity, the staff and the beneficiaries the more engaged they will become.
  6. Encourage creativity: Encourage and celebrate different and new ideas. A ‘can do’ mind set is invigorating and motivational for a board.  You will stand a stronger chance of retaining diversity amongst the board and drawing in younger members.
  7. Great meetings: Do not squander your precious 4-6 meetings a year by running poorly planned, poorly chaired meetings that leave attendees feeling that this was a waste of their time. How effective are your meetings?
  8. Communication that works: Effective communication builds strong relationships.  How you communicate in-between meetings is just as important as during.
  9. Effective decision making: Ensure that all trustees understand and agree on the decision making process.  Ambiguity and misunderstanding is destructive to the cohesiveness of the board.
  10. Make it enjoyable: People volunteer their time and skill to make a difference and to feel valued but they also want it to be enjoyable. It has been said if it isn’t enjoyable it isn’t worth doing! How enjoyable is it being a trustee on your board?

Lynne has had a successful commercial background and works as a management development consultant and executive coach.  She has combined her consultancy work with supporting the charity sector for the past 22 years. She currently is trustee on a couple of charities, as well as chairs the Brian Murtagh charitable trust. There she has an advisory role and spends her time conducting strategic reviews and assessing trustee effectiveness.