Report Criticises Charity Recruitment

Charity trustees aren’t being recruited, trained or appraised in a sufficiently open or transparent manner, according to a new report that criticises the voluntary sector’s governance standards.

The report by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo) warns that as half the sector’s income now comes from the state, it is more vital that ever that charities can demonstrate that taxpayers’ money is being spent properly.

Acevo’s new research reveals a lack of confidence from charity chief executives in the governance systems in place at their organisation. Over 70% of charity chief executives surveyed believe that improving governance should be a priority for the sector and the report also reveals that 65% of charities have no mechanisms for appraising the performance of their trustee boards.

The report is based on the findings of Acevo’s recent Commission of Inquiry into whether charity governance is “fit for purpose” in the 21st Century. The commission, chaired by Sir Rodney Brooke, chair of the General Social Care Council, found “shocking” statistics on the lack of diversity in relation to age, gender and race on many charity trustee boards, which the commission found to be at odds with the
sector’s values and role in working for some of the UK’s most disadvantaged and disenfranchised communities.

This was reflected in lack of transparency in recruiting trustees and chairpersons to charity boards. The commission found that 57% of charity trustee boards rely on word of mouth instead of more formal and accountable recruitment procedures.

Commenting on the report, Brooke said: “It is essential that when public money, as well as charitable donations, is being spent that it be spent transparency. Trustees should be appointed through open processes. Voluntary organisations should be able to demonstrate that they are giving value for money. They should be clear about their objectives and evaluate their performance. Their trustees should be appraised.”

Acevo argues that many charities are constrained by current regulation over governance structures and processes and that the Charity Commission should be more flexible in enabling charities to pursue the governance structures that best suit the needs of their organisation.

This includes opening opportunities for charities to pay their trustees in order to ensure they have the right skills and experience on their boards. Currently charity law dictates that trustees should be appointed on a strictly voluntary basis and should not receive any payment for their services.