The UK is pretty serious when it comes to its charities. There exists a single governing body, the Charity Commission, that oversees and registers the various nonprofit organizations in Englandand Whales. Moreover, its website is first rate and worth checking out. There you can find much useful information about UK-registered charities including trustee and contact information, financial history, charity framework and accounts. Additionally, the site is updated with timely articles that are applicable to the nonprofit sector — even those operating outside the UK.
I recently came across an article on the UK Charity Commission website entitled “The Economic Downturn: 15 Questions Trustees Need to Ask” and was very impressed by its comprehensiveness.
The questions in the article cover four main areas: Strategy, Financial Health, Governance, and Resource Usage. The questions themselves are pretty broad but contain many bullet points that make the checklist a practical and usable tool. Furthermore, after each question the article offers a link or two to sites that offer additional explanations, comments, and helpful hints. Some sample questions dealt with:
- Are we financially strong enough to sustain our operations?
- Do we know what impact the economic climate is having on our donors and support for our charity?
- Are we an effective trustee body?
- Have we considered collaborating with other charities?
It is important to keep in mind that the UK views its trustees as financially responsible and liable for anything that happens to the charity. This is generally not the case with other countries (USAand Israel for example). But this is really a topic for another blog altogether.
UK charities – be aware of the fine print! The article clearly states “If your board carefully works through the areas in this checklist that relate to your charity, it will help to demonstrate that your trustees are acting appropriately in the current circumstances.” This article outlines in very specific terms the steps that the Commission expects its members to take. Should things ever hit the fan you will be able to wave this checklist and shout “We did all that we could.” You would be wise not to take this as a suggestion but as law.
As the economic downturn has hit every country, the UK Charity Commission’s checklist is a great tool for every nonprofit, in every country, on every continent.
For those that missed the links above, here they are again:
15 Questions Trustees Need to Ask
Tizku LeMitzvot [May you continue to merit doing good deeds],