During the coronavirus pandemic the charity sector will face extremely demanding and ever-changing challenges. Charities’ primary interest must be looking after the public and the communities that they serve. Charity Commission has provided a guidance on many questions, which is regularly updated. Currently it includes following questions:
How do I get support to pay my charity staff?
• As per the guidance issued, employers will be able to contact HMRC for a grant to cover most of the wages of their workforce who remain on payroll but are temporarily not working during the coronavirus outbreak. Any employer in the country- small or large, charitable or non-profit will be eligible for the scheme.
Can I use reserves and restricted funds to help my charity through the crisis?
• Reserves can be spent to help cope with unexpected events like those unfolding at present. Charities need to identify which of their funds or assets have limits on their use. If these are internal only – for example
your charity has decided to earmark certain funds for a particular purpose – they may be able to reprioritise these.
• If there are restricted funds, meaning they can be spent for a defined purpose only. For example, a fundraising appeal may restrict funds to a specific purpose, or if there is a permanent endowment, it may have restrictions on selling it to release funds. There may be ways to amend these restrictions but accessing or releasing restricted funds should only be considered if other options such as reserves are not possible. The Charity Commission encourages to carefully consider the wider and longer-term impacts of making such a decision on the financial resilience and donor relationships. Charity should seek professional advice on this if they can. The Commission will be as helpful as possible and offer guidance.
• All decisions on such financial matters should normally be taken collectively, and significant decisions and
action points noted in writing.
Can I cancel or postpone my charity’s AGM or other key meetings?
• Trustees can decide to cancel or postpone their AGM and other critical meetings if it is necessary to do so. They should record this decision to demonstrate good governance of their charity. This is particularly
important if it is not possible to hold your AGM which may make it difficult for you to finalise your annual reports and accounts.
• Wherever possible, Charity Commission would ask the charities to submit their annual reports on time. However, where the situation impacts on the completion of annual returns and accounts, charities with an
imminent filing date can call on 03000 669 197 (lines are open between 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday).
Can I use video, teleconferencing and the internet in place of face-to-face meetings?
• Trustees must check their governing documents clauses if these allow to hold virtual or telephone meetings. If not, they may make amendments to facilitate changes as to how or when meetings are held. If there is no such clause in the governing document and the trustees decide to hold meetings over the phone or using digital solutions, they should record this decision and that they have done this to demonstrate good governance of their charity.
What do I need to report to the Charity Commission?
• It is ultimately the responsibility of the charity trustees to continue to report serious incidents using current guidelines, and the trustees must use their judgement in deciding whether an incident is significant in the
context of their charity and should be reported to Charity Commission.