Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Results of our consultation

This is a summary of the key themes from across the consultation responses we received.

1) What do you think are the key risks to the impact and effectiveness of the charitable sector over the next 5 years?
  • Funding – most commonly mentioned risk is reduced public sector funding but respondents also identify concerns about public giving, investments and depletion of reserves as well as Gift Aid
  • Increasing demand for services – drivers mentioned included state withdrawal, economic challenges and the ageing population and many respondents point to the combination of reducing funding alongside increasing demand prompted by the economic situation making this risk particularly acute
  • Lack of skills or capacity among trustees, volunteers and staff – a shortage of trustees was frequently cited
  • Bureaucracy/legislative burdens – specific areas singled out include CRB checks, employment law, annual returns and administration associated with grant applications but many respondents simply identified the general burden of bureaucracy as a risk
  • Fraud/abuse of charity and consequent reputational damage affecting public confidence
  • Commission not adequately resourced/ineffective regulation
  • Poor governance, often cited as linked to a shortage of trustees or poorly skilled trustees
  • Inadequate transparency/accountability
  • Mission drift or stretching the definition of charity and consequent damage to public confidence
  • Politicisation, loss of independence, charity being exploited by government or charity campaigning damaging relationships with government
  • Big Society – concerns raised about whether this concept means less funding and/or less centralised support
  • Small charities lose out under financial pressure and difficult contracting environment
  • Inflated salaries/administration costs damage public confidence in charity
  • Too many charities

2) In light of the key risks you have identified, what are the key expectations you have of the Commission?

  • Prevent/investigate abuse or concerns about mismanagement – with fraud frequently mentioned
  • Transparency of financial information/ensure compliance with financial information requirements – a number of surveys mention proactive monitoring of accounts
  • Registration of charities – many respondents say they expect detailed or stringent checks on charities at registration and others cite the public register as a key expectation of the regulator
  • Uphold the charity brand/reputation of charity
  • Publish general advice for charities – issues mentioned include responsibilities of trustees, trading, contracts; several respondents mention positively the resources on the Commission website and others highlight the importance of simple, accessible guidance
  • Lobby government on charity issues/champion charities – although some respondents actively oppose this role
  • Provide information or research on the charity sector
  • Specific advice/helpline – this is particularly mentioned as useful for small charities; while some respondents suggest that specific advice is best given by sector bodies, others note the value of advice direct from the regulator
  • Encourage trusteeship/volunteering
  • Promote charitable giving
  • Encourage or require mergers/promote collaboration/reduce the number of charities on the register
  • Light touch regulation/minimise bureaucracy/reduce red tape
  • Promote effective use of charitable resources/require charities to spend less on administration, salaries & expenses
  • Promote self regulation/self assessment
  • Measure and monitor the outcomes of charitable activity, promote focus on impact
  • Commission should be independent/less political

3) Which of these statements do you most agree with?

The Commission should protect the reputation of the charitable sector by being rigorous and questioning before accepting registrations – 77.6%
The Commission should encourage charitable activity through a light touch registration process – 22.4%

The Commission should rely principally on transparency to meet its regulatory remit – 38.6%
The Commission should play a pro-active regulatory role as a deterrent to abuse of charitable status – 61.4%

The Commission should investigate individual organisations only rarely and in cases where large amounts of charitable funds are at risk – 25.7%
The Commission has a responsibility to investigate any case where there is prima facie evidence of a registered charity breaking charity law – 74.3%

Charity trustees should be left to make their own decisions on issues such as trustee payments or selling land – 53.6%
Proposals by charities, such as selling land or making payments to trustees, should be carefully considered by the Commission and be subject to its approval – 46.4%

The Commission should be a key ‘enabler’ through the regulatory advice it provides to individual charities – 68.2%
The Commission should put its guidance on the website and not give any advice on a one-to-one basis to individual charities – 31.8%

The Commission should focus primarily on helping charities to understand the legal requirements and to run themselves effectively – 67.3%
The Commission should focus primarily on dealing firmly with non-compliance with charity law – 32.7%

The Commission should focus on the public information it gives about the charity sector – 50%
The Commission should encourage others to do more to provide information to the public – 50%

The Commission should get involved in investigating only issues or organisations of national significance – 23.6%
Issues of significance for local communities should be addressed by the Commission just as actively as issues of national significance – 76.4%

4) Other bodies which could take on functions currently carried out by the Commission

30.9% of survey respondents thought another body could take on CC functions: the most commonly mentioned examples are NCVO, CVSs and other umbrella bodies, HMRC, Companies House, the Charity Tribunal, the police and the courts. Some respondents commented that funding constraints within the public and charitable sectors might make other bodies unable or unwilling to take on responsibility for new functions. Other respondents used this section to advocate that the Commission should seek to work in partnership more often or to suggest charging for services.

Click the links to see the full list of meetings we held, copies of all the written responses we received, full results from the completed surveys, and a copy of the report from the public focus groups Ipsos MORI ran for us.


  1. "[Operational Guidance] OGs cover our policy and practice based on charity law; they are written to help staff carry out their work in a fair and consistent way. But OGs cannot cover every situation and staff always need to consider the facts of each case....."

    (Operational Guidance available in new format
    Posted: 14 Feb 2011 05:01 PM PST
    A project to reformat our staff guidance is underway

    I have not had proper answers from the Charity Commission about certain questions and issues from December 2010 and 4 reminders have been sent. The replies from them have not quoted their OGs and they hide these on the website. They should follow the OGs law and cite them always in correspondence. I have criticised their replies as they stray away from the OGs thus loosing focus. The OGs are a resource and the person I had dealt with at the Charity Commission is not externalising them in practice. Now the Charity Commission says that OGs are not for every situation. They have not been using the OGs in their past correspondence, thus is it OGs or the Commissioner's (personal) opinion in a correspondence is not put. The Commissioner hides behind the OGs without citing them or externalising them in the correspondence. The above quote defends biased decisions and their Commissioner because it gives them wild freedom to ignore the OGs law and thus decide on their personal opinion.

  2. "If you haven't any charity in your heart you have the worst kind of heart trouble" to cure it Help people, let's unite for one good cause, be a volunteer"save live"!