Although the commission's AGM next week will be our third, each year I manage to forget quite how much work it involves.
AGMs may require a lot of effort and planning, but the pay-offs are significant. Many charities have members, and therefore a requirement to hold AGMs in their governing documents, but those that don't should really give this some thought. Even if it's not a requirement, holding an AGM or users' meeting once a year provides a unique platform for communication and decision making.
An AGM gives trustees the opportunity to explain to members, users, stakeholders and anyone with an interest how they're managing the charity. It also allows people to ask questions and get answers. It shows openness and transparency. It's also, as we found, a very effective way of dispelling myths or preconceptions.
With limited time, this once-a-year opportunity needs to be managed to ensure it doesn't turn into a talking-shop and provides a real chance to hold the organisation to account. It can be helpful for trustees to let everyone know they are bound to act on decisions taken by members only if the governing document says these issues must be decided at the AGM. Experience shows that most AGMs go ahead without a hitch, but when people arrive with expectations that can't be met, things can get difficult. Being clear in advance about what's on the agenda averts mismatched expectations.
Trustees might also use the event as an opportunity to raise interest in the local community, at the local authority, with the press or among MPs. Planning is crucial to success - our guidance CC48 Charities and Meetings provides some pointers for those considering their first AGM. AGMs are hard work, but worth it.
- Rosie Chapman is executive director of policy and effectiveness at the commission.