Charity Commission updates guide to help boards structure review discussions

Big Board Talk poses 15 questions that trustees should consider about strategy, financial health, governance and resources

Big Board Talk
Big Board Talk

The Charity Commission has issued an updated guide for trustee boards to help them structure review discussions about the way their charities operate.

The document, called Big Board Talk, consists of a checklist of 15 questions designed to help trustees demonstrate that they are responding appropriately to current and potential changes in the sector.

The guidance was originally published in 2009 in response to the economic downturn. A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said the document had been revised but "the messaging remains the same".

The regulator wants charities to use the checklist as a template to "help structure a discussion as an agenda item at your trustee meeting, away discussion or planning meeting", the introduction to the document says.

The questions are grouped under four categories: strategy, financial health, governance and making best use of resources.

More than half of the 15 questions cover financial health. Charities are advised to ask themselves whether they are financially strong enough to sustain operations and what impact the economic climate is having on donors. They are also encouraged to review banking arrangements and contracts to deliver public services and pension schemes, and to consider using permanent endowment investments.

Under the strategy heading, the guidance encourages trustees to consider opportunities such as taking on public service delivery contracts or collaborating with others to provide accommodation or equipment. Risks such as reduced income from investments and increased or reduced demand for services should be taken into account, it says.

Trustees are also asked to reflect on whether they are effective trustee bodies that feel able to take difficult or unpopular decisions if needed, such as ending or changing some activities.

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