Posts tagged ‘Governance’

The designatory letters DChA are used by holders of a Diploma in Charity Accounting, a qualification awarded by The Institute of Chartered Accountants  (ICAEW) who hope that it will inspire confidence that the holder of the Diploma has the knowledge to make a real difference to the prosperity of an organisation through understanding of charity accounting and financial management.

Prior to 2007 the diploma could be achieved through study and examination or by submitting evidence of experience in advising the 3rd sector.  The ‘experience’ route is no longer available.

At the time of writing this post, around 700 accountants in the UK hold this diploma (listed here) and just over half of these are working in practice as auditors / independant examiners and advisers.   The remaining mainly being financial managers working with in the sector itself.

As a trustee, what does using an accountant with the Diploma mean to you?

  • Confidence to trust them to provide specialist financial care with knowledge of your sector and its inherent challenges
  • Reassurance that they understand the complexities of Charity Accounting
  • Non-financial matters such as governance are addressed with practical solutions
  • Information is presented in a straightforward and understandable manner
  • Value for Money services with fixed fees and experienced resources to keep fees to a minimum
  • You can get on with running your charity knowing that you are in safe hands!

In my opinion providing services to not-for-profit organisations takes additional expertise as the sector has specific accounting requirements as well as a different type environment in terms of targets, principles, reporting and management needs.  Often the people working within this sector do so for low or no monetary reward and do not necessarily have the same skills of someone who has been involved in a corporate environment.  Therefore the level of support and the approach taken to professional advice should be different.

To get the most value from your professional advisers, it is essential that they have carried out adequate and relevant professional development (CPD) and have experience in your industry.

Update:  In August 2010, ICAEW announced that in response to demand the DChA experience route is being re-opened for senior professionals in charity accounting to gain recognition for their expertise.

The information provided in this blog illustrates my opinions and experiences, it does not constitute advice and I do not accept responsibility for any actions taken or refrained from as a result of reading this post.

When working with charities, the question I get asked the most is “is our TAR detailed enough?” as they naturally do not want to expose all, yet they appreciate that this is a key document that is clearly defined by the SORP 2005 and is crucial in demonstrating compliance with the public benefit tests (see previous blog post ‘Public benefit – your best defence…’)

To answer the question directly the report should:

  • be about 4-6 pages of A4 print, font 11 for a small to medium sized organisation
  • clearly explain how the organisation fulfils it’s objects and adheres to it’s governing document
  • use plain English and refer to the accounts to which it is attached, but not regurgitate the accounting information
  • use the prescribed format set out in the SORP.  i.e. use the 7 key headings.

For those who are not familiar with the SORP 2005, these prescribed headings are:

  1. References and administrative details of the Charity, its Trustees and advisers
  2. Structure, Governance and Management
  3. Objectives and Activities
  4. Achievements and Performance
  5. Financial Review
  6. Plans for future periods
  7. Funds held as a Custodian Trustee (if appropriate)

Model reports are available on the Charity Commission Website

Some key points that are often missed

  • In paragraph 2 explain how trustees are recruited and outline the policies for induction/training of trustees.  Mapping the skills of the board and recruiting to fill skills gaps is a sign of great governance.  If your organisation has carried out this exercise, brag!
  • When explaining to the reader your objectives, paragraph 3, focus on the positive impact significant activities have had and explain how they have contributed to the achievement of the stated objectives.  If the organisation is grant making, ensure the policies are explained and if volunteers are utilised, readers need to understand their role and contribution.  If possible, quantify this in terms of hours, locations etcetera
  • bs00876aPerformance, paragraph 4, should identify milestones and KPI’s so that achievements can be benchmarked against objectives.  The public are keen to know the percentage of resources allocated to overheads, they need to understand the ROI i.e. impact per pound of funds raised.  This is obviously difficult to quantify as many of the aims are emotional, not financial, but trustees should not shy away from trying.  I have often seen larger, national charities measure their impact in terms of taxpayers money saved.
  • The financial review needs to look at each fund and state the principle financial policies adopted.  Take time to clearly explain the reserves policy in particular as the Charity Commission will be monitoring this.  Make comment on how the current years performance and the current activities effect reserves.  Also, outline any financial commitments such as borrowing or obligatory grants.

This list is not exhaustive, but I hope I have set out the key points, please call me if you would like to discuss your TAR or would like me to review your draft.  Please note however, that an auditor can not write this report for you so please don’t ask!

The information provided in this blog illustrates my opinions and experiences, it does not constitute advice and I do not accept responsibility for any actions taken or refrained from as a result of reading this post.