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Charity governance during the coronavirus
This page includes questions for trustees to consider as well as advice and guidance for charity governance, such as paying staff, holding meetings and annual reporting, when normal operations are compromised.
Questions for trustees
The NCVO have suggested the following questions for trustees to consider of their charities:
Do we have, or need to develop a plan which: 1) sets out the potential risks and explores different scenarios 2) identifies responses to manage these risks 3) gives authority to staff or individual trustees to make key tactical decisions quickly 4) sets out a clear line of authority and decision making in the case of absence
Can we refocus our efforts and activities, in line with our charitable purpose, to respond to coronavirus?
What are our most essential operations and services? How could we continue to operate these in the event of isolation or staff absences?
What organisations can we partner with to continue to deliver services or provide new support?
What extra flexibility or support might employees, volunteers and beneficiaries need at this time and how can we communicate with them?
What immediate actions do we need to take to manage our finances – considering cash flow and increased contingency costs?
Can we speak to funders about the impact of cancelling, delaying project activities, or even in repurposing funds?
How can the board and staff team utilise technology to continue to meet and make decisions if we cannot meet in person?
How might this impact on our corporate decision making, audits and filing deadlines as well as meetings such as AGMs?
Employers, including charities, can get support to pay wages for those who remain on payroll but are temporarily not working during the coronavirus outbreak through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. These workers will be designated as ‘furloughed workers’ and the government will pay up to 80% of their wages (capped at £2,500 per worker per month). This will be backdated to 1 March and will hopefully be up and running by April.
It may be necessary to cancel your charity’s AGM if it is to take place in the next few months. If you have to cancel, you should record this decision to demonstrate good governance of your charity.
It is advisable to consider holding meetings remotely. You should follow the Charity Commission’s guidance for holding meetings remotely here.
Trustees should consider what are their short, medium and longer term priorities and see if they need to amend their financial planning given the current situation. They must consider whether certain projects, spends and activities can be stopped or delayed to focus on essential spending. Reserves can be spent to help cope with unexpected events likes those unfolding at present. See advice on financial resilience and charity reserves.
Where the current crisis impacts on the completion of annual returns and accounts, charities with an imminent filing date can contact the Charity Commission on 0300 066 9197 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm).
While the Government appreciates that these are very pressing times, it is the responsibility of charity trustees to continue to report serious incidents using current guidelines.