Red Cross governance review may stir change

The British Red Cross is set to announce the results of a summer-long governance review involving thousands of its volunteers that could lead to fundamental changes in how the organisation is structured.

The consultative process intends to empower the Red Cross' 43,000 volunteers with more influence and make it easier for them to reach the board of trustees.

Four thousand volunteers received questionnaires seeking opinions on issues such as how they feel they are being represented and whether they are happy with electoral processes. More feedback has been gleaned through focus groups and inviting interested parties to write in with their views.

The scrutiny on governance follows the charity's decision to shed some layers of management at the end of last year.

Mike Adamson, director of strategy and planning, said: "We have tried to ensure that all the different groups within the organisation have had the opportunity to have their say.

"After the changes made in December, we felt it was a good time for us to look at issues such as volunteer representation, governance and accountability.

"The majority of our trustees are already volunteers but we want to make the process through which they get on to the board more accountable and transparent,

he said.

Currently eight Red Cross board members are volunteers while seven are co-opted for their specific skills.

Establishing advisory groups to the board and expanding the number of trustees are among the changes being considered, but Adamson said: "I would like to wait for the results of the feedback from focus groups before commenting on what changes might happen."

This is likely to happen in November but Adamson pledged that whatever is announced would result in "volunteers feeling they have a much more transparent process of how their views are heard".

Adamson described accountability as one of the biggest issues facing the sector over the next two years.

Tesse Akpeki, head of the trustee and governance team at NCVO, estimates around a fifth of voluntary organisations are currently embracing some kind of internal review, far more than four years ago.

"Voluntary organisations are asking two questions: 'are we doing the right thing and are we doing things right?' Governance reviews, appraisals and self-assessments help answer these two questions,

said Akpeki.

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