NICVA, working with Rural Community Network, has successfully helped over 700 charities with their charity reporting.
The project started initially as a 6 month pilot in October 19 and ran for an additional year based on demand and Department for Communities’ funding. NICVA’s and RCN's role was to contact charities and make them aware of the support available and provide templates and instructions. Our aim was to provide support, develop trustees’ skills and help promote best practice and understanding of charity reporting, leading to improved governance.
The project named ‘Trustee Capacity Building’ operated in some very challenging conditions. The pandemic was in full swing and a recent legal judgment impacted the way the Charity Commission operated. The pandemic meant that support moved from face to face meetings to meetings conducted by phone or over Zoom. While this worked well for many charities, it was harder for others where trustees did not have access to the right technology. There was the added difficulty of contacting charities who had closed their premises and did not have access to phones.
The Court of Appeal ruling of February 2020 upheld the High Court judgment of May 2019, which ruled that all Charity Commission orders and decisions must be made by the Board of Commissioners or a committee with delegated authority that included Commissioners, rather than Commission staff. As a result, all charities registered prior to the end of May 2019 are no longer registered as the decisions were made by staff, not the Board of Commissioners. As only registered charities are obliged to comply with the accounting and reporting regulations, the Commission ceased marking charities ‘in default’ and removed the annual reporting status information on the register. They also stopped sending reminders to charities. The Commission recommended that, where possible, charities should continue as normal and left online services open to allow charities to complete their annual monitoring return and upload their reports and accounts.
In spite of the challenges presented by the pandemic and the legal situation with the Charity Commission, NICVA, working with RCN, was able to help over 700 charities. Charities were sent letters explaining the importance of uploading their reports and accounts with templates and instructions. Over 200 charities were given one to one support either by email, phone or attended training delivered over Zoom. This support has given them the confidence to complete their annual monitoring returns and upload their accounts and reports. As the project draws to a close, Michele Crilly, Governance and Charity Advice Officer, responsible for the project said
“I am very proud of this project, it has been a real honour to support so many charities. I am glad that I was able to help so many to improve their charity reporting as I know this will make a difference to their ability to obtain funding. It will also increase their credibility with their beneficiaries and other stakeholders.”
A trustee from a charity who received support from the project had this to say
“Thank you to Michele and NICVA for providing this service. Returns to the Charity Commission are an important aspect of our responsibility as a board of Trustees. Often this can be daunting or documents can be submitted in error unintentionally. Michelle was able to give constructive feedback and show us our next steps allowing us to improve at a trustee level. The benefits of producing a well completed set of annual reporting documents was clearly explained to us and we are now much more confident in this area. We also are aware of the support that NICVA will continue to offer our organisation in the future.”
Whilst the project has come to an end NICVA continues to offer support to charities with all aspects of governance. https://www.nicva.org/services/governance-and-charity-advice Resources including instructional videos on charity reporting can be viewed at this link: https://www.nicva.org/services/charity-annual-reporting
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