The news coverage at the end of last year about Paul Flowers, the former Co-op Bank chair who was investigated for allegations of false expenses claims while a charity trustee, triggers a question: how prepared would your board be to respond if a trustee became a major reputational risk?
Many charities include a risk assessment in their strategic planning: in my experience, this often focuses mainly on financial risks. However, there is a growing realisation that trustees need to be alert to other risks - in particular, those that might jeopardise the good name of their charity.
So what should the trustees' role be in protecting the reputation of the organisation? Should you verify the history and track record of those people who are selected to sit on your board, as you would with paid staff? If so, how do we avoid creating checks that feel draconian and alienate potential trustees?
These matters challenge us to reflect on our practice and ensure that we can deal with accusations if one of our trustees becomes the centre of negative media attention. And, crucially, they require us to frame a reasonable and appropriate process that means we can achieve due diligence on all our board members.