Trustees want simpler guidance about reporting, survey indicates

Charity trustees want clearer, simpler guidance about reporting amid concerns that requirements are too long and complicated for those without a background in finance, new research shows.

The membership body The Chartered Governance Institute surveyed 429 trustees toward the end of last year to explore the benefits and constraints of the Charities Statement of Recommended Practice.

The survey is part of a Chartered Governance Institute review that aims to assess whether the Sorp meets the needs of trustees, as both preparers and users of charity accounts and annual reports.

Almost half of all respondents (210) said they would like a checklist to be introduced to help trustees prepare the annual report; 189 were keen for a simple “how-to” guide to be produced; and 141 respondents would like to see worked examples.

Slightly more than half of respondents said they found the Sorp a useful framework for preparing their charity’s annual report, but satisfaction with its usefulness dropped to 37 per cent in relation to presenting a charity’s financial information.

The amount of financial information that has to be provided is considered too extensive and too complicated for trustees without a financial background, the survey shows.

One respondent said: “The current presentation of financial figures is more difficult for non-financial practitioners who have to work quite hard to get an overall picture.”

Another said the Sorp forced charities to present the information in an unnatural and disjointed way, rather than allowing them to say what they did and what the risks and contingencies were.

Other suggestions included less repetition and more use of cross-referencing against other documents, and the inclusion of environmental impact reporting.

Louise Thomson, head of policy in the not-for-profit team at TCGI, said: “Feedback to the survey highlighted a desire for annual reports to be shorter and more concise, written in plain English, and for more visual information such as infographics to be used to communicate key facts.

“Overall, a call to better ‘tell the story’ of a charity, in terms of the activity, impact and financials, was clear.”

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