Focus: Finance and Governance - Trustee talk - Ray Donnelly, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

Following the involvement of Roy Castle with our charity in 1994, and the massive publicity surrounding his illness and death, we rapidly received very large sums of money in personal donations and corporate support.

Such an explosion in income and activity over a short period of time resulted in real governance problems. As trustees, we did not want to slow down the amazing progress we were making in pursuit of our charitable objectives. At the same time, however, we became acutely aware that our internal procedures and controls were insufficient and difficult to enforce.

The staff - and to some extent the trustees themselves - were caught up in the intense activities of driving the charity forward.

At the root of the problem was the fact that we did not have a set of written governance regulations. This had to be corrected and was achieved five years ago after the appointment of a new chief executive. We carried out a complete governance review in conjunction with the Charity Commission.

This involved looking at recruitment, skills and training of trustees, conduct of the board, committee structures, relationships with staff, communication and subsidiary companies.

This exercise resulted in a comprehensive document agreed by both trustees and staff. It was a difficult and time-consuming task, but the charity has been strengthened considerably by the adoption of clearly defined governance regulations. With these as a backdrop, we have been able to stabilise the charity and put in place the strongest management team in our history.

Five years have elapsed since then, and it is time for a detailed review.

We need to look at how well we follow our governance regulations and whether they need to be updated.

As the people responsible for this area, trustees must not presume all is well.

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