Charity Trustee Conference on Understanding Charity Finance

10 Nov 2016 Denise Copeland    Last updated: 18 Nov 2016

NICVA Charity Finance Conference

Tuesday’s charity trustee conference on understanding charity finance attracted a good number of board members and employees from a wide range of charitable organisations, both large and small.

The conference was aimed at charity trustees (ie those on the board or committee of a charity) to highlight the importance of good financial governance and to encourage charity trustees to be more assertive in their role given that they are ultimately responsible for the finances of their organisations.  The following comments by some of the participants who attended are largely indicative of the general feedback:  

Excellent opportunity to ask all those finance questions you’ve always wondered about!” Rosalyn Kennedy, Board Member, Bounce Culture CIC

“Excellent conference, well structured with presentations by knowledgeable and engaging speakers in a timely manner” Tom Kernaghan, Director, Springfield Charitable Association

“After coming to events like this, I feel I have a greater understanding of everything.” Liz Cunningham, Chairperson, Friends of Hemsworth Court

"NICVA’s events help steer the passion that drives our efforts as Trustees to ensure that we have the knowledge and skills for effective governance.”  Sean O’Hare, Treasurer, Home-Start Causeway


Seamus McAleavey, CEO, NICVA opened the conference with a warm welcome to everyone, recognising that a key way to celebrate Trustee’s Week is by helping charity trustees to understand their responsibilities with regards to financial governance. He thanked Quilter Cheviot for sponsoring the conference and all of the speakers for agreeing to give of their expertise, acknowledging the importance of sharing experiences so that others can benefit also.  

Financial governance and the role of the board

Peter McBride, Chair of NICVA’s resources sub-committee delivered an inspiring presentation encouraging board members to ask appropriate and relevant questions. He emphasised the importance of seeking assurance about the state of the charity’s finances highlighting how essential it is that individual trustees understand what is being presented to them by senior members of staff or by other trustees.  He also stressed the importance of continually reviewing the financial controls so that they’re fit for purpose. 

Please see Peter’s full presentation below:


Charity reporting regulations

Myles McKeown, Head of Compliance and Enquiries at the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland outlined the new accounting and reporting requirements for all registered charities. As well as highlighting the key information that will be required for the annual monitoring return, Myles also gave an overview of two separate cases that the Commission recently investigated.  Both investigations identified that governance needed improving as the boards were both long standing with too much reliance on key staff.  

For more detailed information please see Myles full presentation below:


Charity reserves – the good, the bad and the ugly

The final presentation of the morning was delivered by Gemma Woodward, Director of Responsible Investment at Quilter Cheviot who flew in from London for the conference.  Gemma spoke about the importance of knowing and understanding what charity reserves are for and referred those who are reviewing their charity reserves policy to consult the guidance on setting reserves

For those charities with investments, she explained the importance of reviewing these properly and in line with the regulations on investments by charities.  See below for Gemma’s full presentation:


The Workshops

Participants had the opportunity to attend a selection of workshops.  Chris Smith, Chair, Association of Charity Independent Examiners, (ACIE) flew in from Scotland to deliver two separate workshops, one on the independent examination of receipts & payments accounts and the other on understanding charity accrual accounts. 

The independent examination of receipts & payments accounts

This workshop included an overview of the ‘directions’ issued by the Charity Commission for independent examination and the content of R&P (Income and Expenditure) accounts for charities with an income of under £250,000.  Chris took participants through the independent examination process, from the first contact with a charity to the final sign off letter. 


Understanding charity accrual accounts

The aim of this workshop was to give trustees a good understanding of charity accrued accounts prepared in accordance with SORP. Chris explained the key features of charity accrual accounts and gave participants plenty of opportunity to identify areas that they didn’t understand.   


Diversifying your fundraising

The aim of this workshop was to give participants an opportunity to start thinking about fundraising in a different way.   Delivered jointly by Lynn Kennedy, Fundraising Advice Officer and Sandra Bailie, Head of Organisational Development at NICVA, participants had the opportunity to review current sources of funding and to consider a variety of different ways to generate income.


Raising money, the rules explained

In this seminar, Denise Copeland, Governance & Charity Advice Manager, NICVA explained the regulations that exist for some of the more common forms of fundraising including public collections, raffles, and lotteries.  She also explained the trading restrictions that charities must adhere to and highlighted when a trading subsidiary may need to be considered.   She encouraged participants to consult the relevant sections of the Code of Fundraising Practice for guidance on specific aspects of fundraising. 


Further relevant training and information

For more information on specialised training delivered by ACIE:

the independent examination of receipts and payments accounts and

the independent examination of accruals accounts's picture
by Denise Copeland

Governance and Charity Advice Manager

[email protected]

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