Public Trust In Charities Can Be Rebuilt If We Celebrate Great Governance

Public Trust In Charities Can Be Rebuilt If We Celebrate Great Governance

Expert opinion
Chair of the Trusteeship Committee, The Clothworkers’ Company

Camila Batmanghelidjh quizzed by MPs – fundraising scandals – trouble in charity boardrooms…it’s been a torrid quarter for the third sector.

Back in 2013 The Clothworkers’ Company, along with our partners New Philanthropy Capital, Reach and Prospectus, started work on planning a new charity awards scheme. We wanted to create an event dedicated solely to sound charity governance after we received an overwhelmingly positive response to the idea from the sector. Little did we know that over 12 months later, charity governance would be chalking up quite so many questionable headlines.

We now find ourselves launching the new Charity Governance Awards against a backdrop of negative publicity for the third sector: the collapse of Kids Company, the failure of BAAF, fraud at Little Heroes Cancer Trust, plus further bad press over issues such as charity CEO pay and bully-boy fundraising tactics.

We believe that, even within a troubled charity, there is great work being done – let’s not forget or dismiss the staff and volunteers who work tirelessly for charities that sadly may prove to have been mismanaged.

However, we also know there is a wealth of outstanding work on charity boards. Excellent governance is the bedrock of a successful charity, and it ensures that the organisation has the best possible impact on those whom it seeks to help. But do the public at large know that? Is there enough understanding as to what good governance really is and what it can achieve?

Unless circumstances are exceptional, charity board members are often perceived as faceless ‘top floor’ men and women. It is overlooked that these altruistic people are giving their time and expertise free to help a charity achieve its ultimate aims.

Today there is a serious shortage of such dedicated individuals – those willing to join the governing boards of charities. For some time now we have been working to address this issue with a number of measures; we encourage Clothworkers’ Company members to seek trustee roles in the charity sector; we also work with our awards partners on a trustee leadership programme, seminars, and online resources: and now we offer these awards which we hope will play their part in inspiring others to take up charity trusteeship.

A few serious failures and bad headlines risk contaminating public perception. Fuelled by some of the more sensationalist sectors of the press, such negative views can be a powerful thing.

The third sector needs to tackle this public unease head on: to shout about brilliant charity boards and demonstrate what good trusteeship really means. Let’s reveal how most charities are run – by dedicated individuals who may be driven by the heart, but who are nonetheless making wise decisions, working closely together – and using their heads!

Read more about The Charity Governance Award 2016 here!