Running your charity or social enterprise effectively means staying on top of legal, financial and administrative matters. Sometimes it can feel like these issues take over, leaving you less and less time to focus on the real work of providing services. However, there is a lot of help and support out there, so you should never struggle on your own. Midlothian Voluntary Action is your first port of call for help with any of these issues.
Here are some things to think about.
Governance is all about the strategic management and direction of your organisation. Trustees, directors or members of the management committee are the people responsible for ensuring that your organisation is legally and effectively governed. This includes making key decisions about the organisation’s future, oversight of the finances, and ensuring that the organisation acts within the law and in accordance with its purposes.
SCVO has created an excellent Governance Checkup tool, which will enable you to check that your organisation is following good governance practices.
You should familiarise yourself with the governance duties relevant to your organisation’s legal structure.
If you are an unincorporated, non-charitable group, it’s still important to follow good governance practices to maintain the trust of your community, your members and your funders/donors.
It’s vital to manage your organisation’s finances accurately and regularly. It’s a good idea to make finance reporting part of every board or committee meeting. Keeping regular track of income and expenditure and cashflow forecasts will help you avoid unexpected shocks and ensure that your services are sustainable. Here are some things to think about:
- Full cost recovery: Do you know the full costs of your operations and have you factored these into your business plan?
- Lead-in times: Ensuring you know how long it will take for the outcome of grant applications, tenders, or getting a new trading operation off the ground.
- Having a reserves policy is always a good move, to cushion your organisation from the unexpected costs that inevitably do arise.
- Business planning: It’s always a good idea to develop a business plan, which sets out your long-term vision and plans for sustaining your organisation and services. Just Enterprise offers excellent support and training on business planning for your social enterprise or charity.
If you employ staff, it’s crucial that you follow good employment and volunteer management practice. Happy, well-supported and valued people are the most valuable asset that your organisation has. Some things to consider:
- Support and supervision: It’s important to ensure that all staff have access to regular support and supervision. If you only have one employee, the Board should nominate a member to supervise them.
- Policies and procedures: It’s your legal duty to ensure that your staff know their rights, responsibilities and entitlements. SCVO has some useful information and links to templates that you can use to build your employee handbook. They also provide a legal advisory service for member organisations.
- HR Services: Some third sector organisations subscribe to HR companies, who can provide guidance and support, particularly if disputes arise. Some services that our members use include Peninsula, Law at Work, and HR Dept.
- ACAS also provides free advice and information to both employers and employees across the UK.
To find out about your responsibilities for data protection, check the Office of the Information Commissioner in Scotland. Every organisation that handles personal information needs to register with them and pay a data protection fee.