How charities can enhance their resilience by paying heed to the Charity Commission’s new strategy

Aug 22, 2019

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Guest Blog from Robert Nieri, Partner in Brabner’s Charity & Social Enterprise Team in Manchester.

Brexit...Austerity...Division, between the prosperous South East and the rest of the country.

Yes, it's B_A_D.

Against the backdrop of that contentious Brexit vote, and the increased social challenges that followed, the Charity Commission has been busy evolving over the past few years. Following a spate of high-profile issues within charities, and a significantly increased caseload as a result of new powers introduced by the Charities Act in 2016, the Commission has sought to reposition itself, to better serve the public interest. But despite a 41% cut in its funding over the last 10 years, there is no imminent prospect of the Commission being able to charge larger charities in order to contribute to the financing of its operation. In the face of these challenges, last October (and while still relatively new in the hot seat), Baroness Stowell, the Charity Commission's Chair, launched an upbeat new five-year strategy for the regulator, with a new purpose and five key priorities.

The purpose is to ensure that the charity sector can thrive and inspire trust so that people can improve lives and strengthen society.

The Commission’s five new strategic priorities to underpin this purpose are:

  • holding charities to account;
  • dealing with wrongdoing and harm;
  • informing public choice;
  • giving charities the understanding and tools they need to survive; and
  • keeping charities relevant for today’s world.

The Commission’s vision for 2023 is a world where the charity sector is living its values, where it is better able to show it can be trusted because its regulator is better at detecting, deterring and preventing wrongdoing and harm, and where people will have greater confidence that charities are making a real difference.

In early July, the Commission published its Annual Report 2018-2019 and it features plenty of pointers about how in the coming years the regulator intends to maximise its impact with minimum resource.

Sound familiar to all of you?

It never ceases to amaze me how a sector generating £79 billion of income* is regulated by a body whose annual budget has been slashed to its current £27 million, and where for the last few years we have had a national government that has been conspicuous by its absence, engulfed in the black hole that is Brexit, and whose resulting policy paralysis has only exacerbated the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.

In the Annual Report, the Commission’s Chief Executive acknowledges the fundamental importance of charities in our society today:

Charities are increasingly vital to the delivery of services to the public and to communities, and, by extension those services are increasingly dependent on the effective regulation of charities.”

Robert Nieri, Partner in Brabner’s Charity & Social Enterprise Team

But in recent years charities have been getting used to the changed role of their regulator, a body that has morphed from charities’ champion to champion of the people, from friendly adviser to stern enforcer.

As Baroness Stowell has explained in her forward to the Annual Report, the Commission represents the public interest to charities – not the interest of charities to the public.

Nevertheless, this is all towards the end goal of maximising the positive difference charities make.

So what can charities learn from the way the Commission is repositioning itself, in order that they can survive and thrive in the years to come, increasing their internal resilience and attracting and retaining the trust and confidence of their stakeholders?

…You didn’t really think we’d reveal all in advance of our session at the Charity Bank Road to Growth conference, did you?! We’ll be at the Manchester event at the GMCVO on Thursday 17th October delivering ‘Ten tips for charities on legal, compliance and governance to enhance their organisational resilience, in light of the implementation of the Charity Commission’s new five-year strategy.’ Join us!

Meanwhile, there’s the rest of the summer to enjoy before then and we look forward to seeing you in October, when all will be revealed…

If you can’t make it to one of the Road to Growth events, never fear – we’ll be sure to share Robert’s expert tips & advice for organisational resilience later in the autumn! In the meantime, you can check out our latest resources for charities & social enterprises on our Road to Growth events page.

Robert Nieri is a partner in Brabners’ Charity and Social Enterprise Team, based in Manchester. His aim in coming into work every day is to help those who make a difference to others and the world a better place. The Legal 500 Independent Directory has described Robert as having “well-rounded knowledge, good understanding of clients and ability to always meet expectations.”

Charity Bank is a loans and savings bank owned by and dedicated to supporting social purpose organisations. Since 2002, Charity Bank has used its savers’ and investors’ money to make over 1,000 loans totalling more than a quarter of a billion pounds. Find out more about Charity Bank.

The views on this page are those of Brabners.

*Source: The Charity Commission’s Annual Report 2018 (p12)

Road to Growth

Last reviewed: 23/04/2020