Coronavirus Guidance Update for Charities

Mar 24, 2020
Author: Simon Bladen
Simon is one of the firm's Audit Partners. Simon is responsible for looking after the firm’s legal, charitable and not-for-profit clients.
Charity guidance update

Charity COVID-19 Update

At this moment in time many charities will be understandably concerned about what the COVID-19 outbreak means for them. The government want to assure charities that they will be as flexible and pragmatic as possible during the coronavirus outbreak. They will also advise trustees to consider what their decisions will mean for the charity on a long term basis.

Annual General Meeting (AGM)  

Many charities have asked if they can postpone or cancel their AGM and other key meetings. The government has said that their own health advice may have to lead to the cancelation of important charity meetings and events. Furthermore, the Charity Commission (the CC) have asked that where possible they would like charities to submit their annual reports on time. However, the CC will be understanding if you are unable to do this if your AGM is postponed or cancelled. If you cannot submit your annual report on time you will need to call the CC on 0300 066 9197 open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

Video calling and teleconferencing instead of face to face meetings 

Holding face-to-face meetings is becoming more and more difficult. Therefore, holding video calls and teleconferencing is now a preferable option, at least in the short term. In some charity governing documents there is a clause that allow the trustees of the charity to meet virtually. Current advice is to check these documents and meet virtually if possible so you can get any immediate annual reports in on time.

If you do not have this clause in your governing document, you can still decide to have virtual meetings. But, you should record this decision and demonstrate that it is for continuing effective governance of the charity.

What do charities need to report to the Charity Commission?

The CC understand that the coronavirus outbreak means that charities will face extremely demanding challenges to get through the pandemic. The primary interest of charities must now be to look after the community your charity serves and the people within them.

In terms of reporting incidents to the Charity Commission it is still the trustees’ responsibility to do this. They still advise that you should follow the existing guidelines as to whether anything should be reported. However, the CC have also stated that they want trustees to use their own judgement in deciding on what incidents should and should not be reported to them.

What is the position on restricted and unrestricted funds?

Trustees should consider their short, medium and long term aims when considering their charity’s financial position. The reserves of the charity can be used to support it during times of uncertainty, however you should consider any restrictions imposed on the use of these funds. Internally designated restrictions may be able to be re-purposed. However accessing restricted funds should only be done as a last resort and the charity should consider the wider implications of taking such action. The CC are available to provide support before taking any such decisions.

Related content

COVID-19 Government Funding Update

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Simon Bladen