Charities in the UK should use the referendum on Scottish independence as an opportunity to examine how they operate, says a new publication.
Launched today, a new guide produced by the Scotland-based charity the Carnegie UK Trust in partnership with the Association of Chief Officers of Scottish Voluntary Organisations, outlines 10 steps charities should take before the vote on 18 September.
The document, Ten Steps for Charities and the Independence Referendum, says these steps "apply as much to our UK counterparts, not just for those based in Scotland".
It includes views gathered from a series of seminars on the referendum and its implications, run last year by the two organisations. It also features five case studies of approaches taken to date by charities. A report from the Carnegie UK Trust at the start of 2013 found that only 8 per cent of Scottish charities had made any preparations for the referendum.
Step eight in today's report tells charities "there is no ‘correct’ response but there is an opportunity". According to the report, seminar participants "generally agreed that it is an opportunity for charities to make changes to brand, identity and strategy, and to test out new ideas and ways of working".
It also provides the chance to "discuss and implement governance that is fit for purpose" in a changing political landscape, and an "an opportunity to consider how charities will work over the next five or 10 years and to question seriously if they are currently fit for purpose in meeting their beneficiaries’ needs", the report says.
Other suggestions in the guide include that charities read up on guidance published by the Electoral Commission and by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, talk to peers and umbrella bodies, focus on what the referendum result could mean for beneficiaries, users or members, and speak with staff in parts of the UK outside Scotland.
Martyn Evans, chief executive of the Carnegie UK Trust, said: "Although some of the steps within the guide might appear simple, we hope that the content will act as a stepping stone for charities to learn more and delve deeper into what the referendum might mean for them."
Pat Armstrong, chief executive of Acosvo, said the seminars had "highlighted to us the importance of developing a ‘safe place’ for leaders to explore these issues and also to make sure it is in an environment that encourages peer support and good-practice sharing".