Lessons for all charities following Commission’s Actor’s Benevolent Fund case

A regulatory compliance case into the Actor’s Benevolent Fund (“ABF”) has recently concluded. The Charity Commission has published advice relevant to the governance of all charities.

The compliance case was launched following several years of chaotic feuding between factions of ABF trustees. The Commission’s involvement has not been without controversy, however the objective of this article is find out what other charities can learn from the case. On 31 May the Commission published its conclusions at the end of the investigation and some useful lessons have resulted.

  1. Check your constitution – are your trustee appointment and retirement provisions fit for purpose? This Charity Commission guidance “How to write your charity’s governing document” is a great place to start. The Commission worked with the ABF to clarify its governing document.
  2. Make sure your good governance principles are put into practice. Always refer to the Essential Trustee. We also rate the Charity Governance Code for a really comprehensive set of principles.
  3. Regular trustee rotation is essential. The Commission points out that the Charity Governance Code “recommends rigorous review of the reappointment of any trustee who has served for nine or more years”.
  4. Minutes are critically important, particularly when decisions or governance processes may be challenged. Commission guidance on meetings and minutes may be useful.

The most important take away from this case is to never lose sight of the charity’s best interests – don’t let disputes detract from the charity’s work for its beneficiaries. Trustees should act in good faith, act with good will and if disputes arise, mediation is recommended.

This case is a great example of the Commission making pragmatic (and controversial) decisions to set the charity on the right course again, to continue the ABF's valuable work.

Don’t allow disagreements to overshadow your charity’s positive work, says regulator  - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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