Charity Regulation and Good Governance Seminars
The seminars also focused on the importance of good governance with charities and outlined how to use the governance health check along with the governance resources on the DIY committee guide website.
The seminars, which were attended by 235 people, were held in various venues across Northern Ireland, including Belfast, Cookstown, Enniskillen, Derry City, Downpatrick, Ballymena and Armagh.
Feedback from the seminars was extremely positive with most of the participants saying it was a great opportunity to ask the Charity Commission questions and to get practical help on how to improve governance from the Developing Governance Group.
“General overview of complex information - concise and useful.”
“Clear guidance and instructions on new regulations, excellent good governance resource.”
Key messages for charities
One of the key messages from the Commission was that every charitable organisation in Northern Ireland will be required to register with the Commission, even if the group does not want to register. This news came as a surprise to some people who had not previously understood that registration will be compulsory.
Others were concerned at the length of time (up to four years) that it will take for all currently recognised charities to be placed on the register, as they are worried that funders may only fund organisations appearing on the register.
The Commission acknowledged these concerns and agreed that funders need to understand the process so that organisations do not get penalised for not being on the register. It also explained that it will ask cross sections of those charities appearing on the deemed list to register at different stages over the four years rather than targeting charities with the largest income first.
The Commission tried to allay concerns that smaller charities without staff would find it difficult to comply with the new regulations, advising that regulation would be proportionate and fair and that the reporting requirements should not be overly cumbersome for any charity.
The detail of audit and accounting requirements for all charities is not fully known as yet, as secondary legislation will have to be passed. However, it is anticipated that the Department for Social Development will consult on this in the Spring of next year.
The Commission anticipates that it will hold a consultation on its guidance for the public benefit test early next year (provided that the Charities Amendment Bill is given Royal assent by autumn).
Representatives from the Developing Governance Group explained how charities can use the governance health check to help them review their own governance systems and ensure that they are still fit for purpose. Whilst a few participants felt it may take too much time to go through the health check in a committee meeting, the majority could see the benefit of using this tool over a period of time.
Several comments included:
“If you have worked through the health check I would not envisage any concerns in adhering to new charity regulations.”
“A health check of this nature is very clear and simple and cuts through all of the existing paperwork.”
“It is a great way to broaden the thinking of the committee and to develop it.”