Help for not for profit and charity trustees

New book published

‘How to be a Successful Trustee’ just published

Blogsite with a focus on small charities and not-for-profit organisations

I think small charities and not-for-profits are a bit of a forgotten corner of our society.  Thousands of them exist providing extremely valuable help and assistance to a wide variety of individuals and causes.  Hundreds of thousands of people volunteer for them.  Being small, they cannot afford the lavish advertising campaigns of the major charities with millions to spend.  For them it is a struggle to find money and support.  They often operate from shabby offices with hand-me-down furniture and iffy computers and laptops. 

They often feel unloved.  If they are charities, they are subject to a weighty set of rules and regulations.  They must protect their data and ensure, in many cases, their staff are DBS checked.  Since people who work for them do so out of a desire to help people, their local community, or the environment, it can sometimes feel that the excesses of a few major charities has resulted in a set of oppressive regulations placed on all of them.  It is interesting that the first two purposes of the Charity Commission are to ‘hold charities to account’ and ‘dealing with wrongdoing and harm’.  These are of course important functions and need doing, but do they need to be given such prominence? 

Also, nowhere in its page saying ‘what we do’ do the words ‘support’ or ‘promote’ the sector appear.  Charities and not-for-profits expose a sensitive underbelly in our society of course.  It is after all, they who are often in the front line running foodbanks, helping the homeless, supporting battered women or supporting those with addiction problems: those in other words whom society and our politicians have often ignored or even made their circumstances worse. 

This sensitivity is reflected in the saga of appointing a new Chair of the Charity Commission in 2021.  Quite apart from the appointed person having to stand down soon after appointment for alleged past misdemeanours, the then culture secretary was keen that the Commission was stronger on its policing powers and to clamp down on alleged ‘anti woke’ activities. The minister was accused of overstepping his powers and interfering in what was supposed to be a non-political appointment.  The impression created was that charities needed more controls and were in some way being a nuisance.  It was part of a pattern of a government wanting to ensure that the chairs of supposedly independent organisations were in fact ‘one of us’ put there to ensure compliance or docility. 

This blog is intended to be a counter to this and to be a positive antidote to this increasing move for more controls.  It is one of the reasons why I wrote the book How to be a Successful Trustee*.  I wanted to get away from this somewhat suffocating atmosphere of compliance, governance and safeguarding which – although very important – can have the effect of making organisations timid and fearful.  I wanted to focus more on how a trustee can play a part in the success of the charity or a not-for-profit.  And to discuss issues such as communications and information which are somewhat neglected topics in my view.  A successful charity needs to look to the future, embrace change and manage risks.  Not spend all its time obsessing about risk and governance matters.

How to be a Successful Trustee by Peter Curbishley

*ISBN 978-1-913012-63-2 (Amazon);  978-1-913012-61-8 paperback

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