Charity Commission warns charities they must take public expectations seriously

Charities should “lead the way in taking public expectations seriously” if they are to continue to attract public support, the Charity Commission has said.

A report about the complaints received by the regulator about charities says they should be “distinct from other organisations in their attitude and behaviour, in their motivations and methods”.

The report is based on a review of 200 of the 600 complaints submitted to the regulator between April and June 2019 that were deemed to be below the commission’s threshold for action.

“People want charities to show how they further their mission, manage resources responsibly, and reflect their purposes in their values and culture,” the report says. “When things do go wrong, how charities handle it is important.”

The report says charities might think that completing their annual accounts is “a mere tick-box exercise”, but people do raise concerns if a charity’s accounts are overdue or if the information looks wrong or incomplete.

“Charities must comply with legal and regulatory requirements as well as their own policies and procedures,” it says. “But this alone will not build trust with beneficiaries, supporters or the public.

“Good practice, appropriate attitudes and behaviour need to be embedded, to become part of a charity’s expected norms. How you implement your policies, and the motivation behind them, is as important as the policy itself.”

The report says people are more likely to complain to the regulator about a charity if they feel the charity has ignored or dismissed initial complaints.

“Complaints about noise or parking, planning issues or damage to property might seem petty, but if charities don’t have effective complaint procedures, fail to listen or respond to concerns, or don’t explain their decisions clearly, it can increase suspicion and frustration,” the report says.

“That lack of accountability increases the likelihood of a complaint to the regulator.”

The report says the commission will “make sure that no complaint is ignored”.

It says: “We want anyone who has serious concerns about a charity to report these to us, confident that their concerns will be heard.”

The commission has been criticised before for failing to take action after being contacted whistleblowers. It admitted this week that it should have taken more action after a complaint made two years ago about how the Alzheimer’s Society was dealing with staff grievances.

The regulator’s review found that one complaint out of the 200 examined warranted further scrutiny by the commission, the report says.

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