Sandy Adirondack Legal Updates 1806

Reputational risk 

Recent media coverage of Oxfam and the Presidents Club has had profound effects on the charities involved and their reputations (Oxfam losing donor and funder support, Presidents Club Charitable Trust reportedly closing) and on the charity sector as a whole. While such situations are rare, and those that hit national and international media are even rarer, they are not one-offs.

Nor is safeguarding the only issue that makes headlines. Fraud, data breaches and disputes in charities and other voluntary organisations – even if relatively small scale – regularly hit the headlines in national news, voluntary sector media such as Third Sector and Civil Society, local and regional media, and social media. 

No matter what the cause of the scandal – and even if allegations are subsequently not proved – the effect on organisations and their reputations can be huge. To reduce these risks, organisations should have clear policies and procedures not only on safeguarding, but also on fraud prevention, whistleblowing, data protection, other aspects of risk management, media relations (who can talk to the media and who authorises what they can say?), social media, crisis management, serious incident reporting and more. The policies need to be approved and monitored at board level, and need to reflect charity law, safeguarding law and other legal requirements as well as best practice. And they need to be active documents, not stuck on a computer or in a filing cabinet; the policies need to be known and procedures implemented at all levels within the organisation. 

General resources

NCVO have resources available to their members on safeguarding, whistleblowing, and an editable disciplinary procedure.

If your organisation is not an NCVO member, this is and you are considering joining, membership is free for organisations with annual income under £30,000, ranging up to £794 p.a. if income is over £5 million. There are many benefits beyond access to member-only resources.

Dealing with Serious Incidents

Download "How should charities deal with serious incidents?", from the spring 2018 issue of Bates Wells Braithwaite Charity and Social Enterprise Update.  Click below for the full update.

Rethinking Risk: Beyond the tick box.
Charity Finance Group and Sayer Vincent accountants, 2016, 61pp, free download via Guidance, case studies and a refreshingly pragmatic and non-bureaucratic approach.

Crisis communications for charities: A best practice guide.
Charity Comms, 2015, 44pp, free download at; also a link from the NCVO governance round-up above. Covers what is a crisis, what a successful crisis communications response looks like, planning for and dealing with a crisis, dealing with media and social media, and learning points. Highly recommended, despite a design flaw that means key points are highlighted (crossed through, as if with a highlighter pen) in a way that actually obscures the highlighted text.

Ensuring trustee oversight
As well as links to resources, the NCVO governance round-up includes five straightforward questions to help trustees ensure proper oversight of policies and procedures: 

What is our policy in relation to a specific area?
Has the policy been used recently, if so what were the lessons from this?
Do we need to get a second opinion or external view on how this process works?
How are issues raised through the policy reported to the board?
When were our policies last reviewed?

When was the last time your board/management committee considered these questions in relation to each of its major policies? Should it start now? 

From the Charity Commission and other regulators

Regulatory alert to charities: Safeguarding (19/12/17)
Charities and risk management (CC26)
How to manage risks in your charity
Charities: How to protect vulnerable groups including charities.
How to report a serious incident in your charity

source sandy adirondack 20.02.18