Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holding and custodian trustees vs building trustees

I was talking with a friend yesterday about Sunday's session and she said, 'The clue is in the name'. Which indeed it is but only if you use the correct legal terms. When people use the term building trustee they are (a) not using the correct term and (b) leading some people to believe that they have responsibilities towards the building - which often they don't.

So perhaps the first action after reading through your governing document a few times is to ensure that roles have the correct names. A holding trustee is an individual who only 'holds' the title to the property. A custodian trustee, which is an incorporated body (i.e. a company) only has custody of the building. That is it unless they are given other responsibilities by the governing document which is why you need to have read it.

Action planning still to come.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Trustee session at the Annual Meeting

Thanks to all 70 of you who turned up to Derek McAuley's and my session on trustees yesterday morning. It was encouraging to hear the amount of expertise that we do have in our community. Clearly the big issue that vexes many people is about holding trustees and (managing) trustees - if you look back to three of my posts in February of this year - see the archives at the right-hand side of this blog - you will see a debate that Derek and I had about this matter following an article that he’d written in the Unitarian.

So let's get practical .... if you need to change things then first people within your congregation have to be committed to understanding the issue; and second you have to find a way to make real what your governing document** and charity law say. If you have holding trustees who have been making all the decisions when they have no powers conferred on them by the governing document** then it may take a bit of time to sort things out.

(** Governing document is the generic term for the document which provides the rules for the running of a charity – it may be a constitution for an unincorporated association, it may be articles and memorandum of association for a company or it may be a trust deed for a trust.)

The first step? Have a look at your constitution and get a real sense of what it says and then read it through several more times :)

As I said yesterday I would encourage people to seek out their local Council for Voluntary Services (CVS) and join that. Then make full use of their services. However just one caution - my experience is that they are generally good at the basic stuff but less good on property matters and less less good on listed building matters - which may or may not matter.

Then create an action plan ... my next post will be about how to do this.

I am happy to point people in the right direction for advice and to help where I can but it is difficult to offer specific support at a distance - so do make the links locally. Many CVSs also offer training sessions for a small fee or free.

If people would like a longer session on such things do let me know and perhaps we can organise something.

P.S. Volleyball went very well and I managed to see ¾ of the match.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Leycett - Kettering - Swansea -Kettering - Leycett

Am off to Swansea at the weekend for a flying visit to the Annual Meetings. It is also the national volleyball championships in Kettering and my daughter is in a final on Saturday afternoon and one on Sunday afternoon - so my visit will be very brief. I will be co-leading with Derek McAuley (GA Chief Officer) a workshop on Sunday on being a trustee - it's only lasting 40 minutes but it will give me a good feel of what the issues are for people so that I may, with a bit more knowledge, shape what I write here.

The blogosphere is an interesting place but, for me, nothing beats actually getting out and meeting people. It is also a bit easier to give people encouragement in person. Most trustees do a good enough job - support is about getting that up a notch. It can also, in a group, be about recognising that we are all in the same boat - which is usually comforting as long as we leave with enthusiasm for change and development.

I will also be writing a very brief summary of the session for the Inquirer.

Now I must get back to writing a communications strategy - I really would encourage you to have a go at writing a policy as it makes you think really hard about the issues.

And unless you are supporting another volleyball club, please send happy thoughts to Newcastle Staffs Volleyball Club for their matches at Kettering this weekend. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Know How Non-Profit's 'How To' Guides

A really useful resource - this is a wiki where people with specific expertise have written short 'how to' guides on a range of charity/third sector organisational and business issues. And it keeps growing. You might even consider writing something yourself.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Free on-line learning: TrusteElearning

I had forgotten this excellent resource which is free on-line learning about governance produced by Suffolk Association of Voluntary Associations with Big Lottery funding. Give it a go and encourage others to do so - you might like to do it as a board.

You may find the resource here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Institute for Philanthropy which usually does excellent research and provides, by and large, free publications on governance issues has just produced a report entitled, The State of UK Charity Boards which says this, based on their research,

... we provide, in order of importance, five recommendations of good governance for the boards of UK charities. These are that:
  1. Each trustee of a charity should either provide or actively raise funds for their charity.
  2. Each board should conduct an annual review of its own performance, and should meet regularly: if possible, at least four times a year.
  3. The chief executive should have a greater role in the selection of the trustees.
  4. There should be a greater emphasis on succession planning.
  5. Charities should spread the net wider when recruiting trustees.
Whether you agree with these or not, it is interesting to note that they consider the most important recommendation to be about trustees and fund-raising.

This is interesting to me because I have seen charities fail where trustees haven't had a clue about their own finances, have spent their reserves without knowing it and have thought that it was someone else's responsibility to ensure that they were financially viable.

Whilst we go onto boards to advance the object of our chosen charity we do need to ensure that there are enough funds, now and in the future, to ensure that that object can be achieved. It is no use being committed to a cause without the means to make any difference. If we employ staff then we have a duty to ensure that there are sufficient funds to continue employing them.

As the economic situation for charities gets ever more difficult we may be taxed with finding new ways to raise funds to keep services being delivered and staff employed. Any charity which does not have financial sustainability as a key target which trustees are totally committed to achieving is not going to be able to meet its charitable object or will only do so through luck. We should not be trusting to fortune for those things that we value highly.