NICVA’s Trustees’ Annual Reporting Conference

20 Jun 2019 Denise Copeland    Last updated: 27 Sep 2019

This year’s Trustees’ conference, held on 4 June 2019, was all about the Trustee Annual Report (TAR).  

The aim of the conference was to not only  highlight the legal requirements for the content and filing of the TAR but also to encourage charities to use the annual reporting process as an opportunity to communicate how their charity is making a difference.

Patricia McDaid, Aware Defeat Depression said:

“Excellent speakers and a great range of topics.”

Gillian McGaughey, St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast said:

“A very worthwhile and stimulating morning. Excellent quality speakers and helpful insights.”      

Legal requirements for content and reporting to regulators

Jenny Ebbage, Partner, Edwards & Co Solicitors outlined the legal requirements for both the content of the TAR as well as the requirements for filing it with the relevant regulator(s).  She highlighted in particular the usefulness of the Charity Commission’s guidance on The Trustee Annual Report and Public Benefit Reporting in particular section 3.1.

During the Q&A Jenny also highlighted that HMRC has changed its rules regarding applying for charity tax status. Charitable organisations waiting to be registered with CCNI can now apply to HMRC without having to be registered with the Charity Commission first.

Using inspiring impact for public benefit reporting

Sandra Bailie, Head of Organisational Development, NICVA explained how charities could use inspiring impact to help them with their public benefit reporting.  She highlighted that writing the TAR needn’t be a tick box exercise but rather can be an opportunity for charities to tell their story by highlighting achievements in an engaging way. 

She stressed the importance of planning and embedding mechanisms for staff, volunteers and trustees to gather information.  She has produced a useful resource on impact and annual reporting to help those who are charged with compiling the TAR. 

Effective financial management including reserves

Charles Mesquita, Charities Director, Quilter Cheviot illustrated key tips for trustees to help them have effective management of the finances of the charity.  He highlighted how prevalent fraud is and that all charities need to have proper systems and lines of accountability in place to minimise the likelihood of fraud. 

He demonstrated how the risk register can be used to manage financial risks and suggested that charities should complete the internal financial health check from the Charity Commission for England and Wales.  He also outlined the key questions that trustees should be asking and consider using a risk based approach to identify what level of reserves they need  and also explore if they should be investing some of their charity funds. Charles encouraged trustees to read the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland's guidance on Developing a reserves policy.

When annual reporting goes wrong

Myles McKeown, Head of Compliance & Enquiries, Charity Commission for Northern Ireland outlined some of the basic compliance checks that a significant number of charities preparing R&P accounts have failed. He signposted to the Commission’s suite of guidance on preparing accounts and annual reporting.

He highlighted that the Commission only assesses a proportion of submitted accounts and reports and does not have the resources to check every charity’s accounts and reports. 

Myles also emphasised that trustees are expected to report serious incidents to the Commission when they occur and not wait until the end of the year.  He signposted to the Commission’s guidance on serious incident reporting which has some good examples of what should and should not be reported.

The Charity Register – A funder’s perspective

Brenda McMullan, Executive Director, Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland outlined how her staff use the information on the charity register to help them assess the eligibility criteria for grants.  They use both the charity register and the combined list to determine if an organisation is registered or already recognised as a charity for tax purposes. If any grant applicant has ‘Due Documents Received Late’ on the charity register, they will ask the organisation why that is rather than dismissing the application. 

Brenda’s team will then look at the annual report to ensure that it reflects the charitable purpose, and that their purposes are consistent with the project funding being applied for.  They will also look at the annual accounts to see what reserves and assets, cash flow and other funding has been received.  The auditor or independent examiner’s report will also be checked to see if any issues have been identified.  Brenda also outlined the range of funding opportunities that is available from Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland

Developing a governance planning framework

Denise Copeland, Governance & Charity Advice Manager, NICVA,  the final speaker of the day, outlined a very practical way that charities can develop their own planning framework to help them identify their key governance events and requirements. 

She suggested creating a governance calendar starting with the AGM, based on allowing enough time for the accounts to be independently examined/audited after the financial year end, then include board meetings, sub-committee meetings, deadline for charity register and company register.  She emphasised the importance of complying with the governing document which usually sets out the governance arrangements for the charity.  Denise outlined how to build in the key activities that need to happen throughout the course of the year and who will carry it out, for example which board meeting  will approve accounts and TAR and succession planning, time for audit/independent examination, notice of AGM, new trustees signed up with regulator(s).   

She illustrated how to do this by using a very simple calendar to chart events and showed how NICVA’s governance calendar is completed.

This conference was kindly supported by Quilter Cheviot.'s picture
by Denise Copeland

Governance and Charity Advice Manager

[email protected]

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