Governance during the COVID-19 pandemic

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We are not short of information about what to do during the COVID-19 pandemic, but sometimes it is difficult to work out what is relevant to you and your organisation, and when.  Arts & Business Scotland would like to share with you some helpful sites and some useful information on the subject of the governance of your organisation during this time.

There may be some things which are worrying you.  It is always worth checking out the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) in the first instance.  They have a dedicated section of their website which is updated regularly - https://www.oscr.org.uk/guidance-and-forms/covid-19-guidance-for-charities/

OSCR are also working with Association of Chief Officers of Scottish Voluntary Organisations (ACOSVO) and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) to support the charitable and voluntary sector through the pandemic.

SCVO has a hub of information about the overall topic – including a page dedicated to governance matters https://scvo.org/support/coronavirus/governance

ACOSVO is leading on providing peer support for chief executives and senior leaders.  Open to ACOSVO members and non-members alike there is a weekly Zoom meeting for CEOs to which you can sign up – subject to demand.  Details of this and other topics can be found here https://www.acosvo.org.uk/coronavirus-covid19

My top topics are:

  • Can we hold our board meetings virtually?
  • What if we have to cancel our AGM?
  • What if the current situation has a negative impact on my charity?  Should I be reporting it to OSCR as a notifiable event?
  • Third Sector Resilience Fund

    Read on to find out more...

Can we hold our board meetings virtually?

Where it isn’t going to be possible to get together face-to-face, holding meetings virtually could be a good option.  Some charities have specific provisions in their governing documents to allow meetings to take place over the phone or using digital solutions. 

However, some organisations do not have that provision.  OSCR advises us that in the current situation, they are happy that charities hold their meetings in this way even if the governing document doesn’t specifically permit it.  This will allow charity trustees to have important discussions and to take decisions at this difficult time. 

It is important to note though, that where you decide to take this virtual route, you should minute this decision, thus demonstrating good governance of your charity, and perhaps consider changing your governing document to allow this in future.

Whichever remote meeting technology you use make sure everyone can easily connect to the meeting and communicate effectively.

You still need to check you’ve got the necessary quorum to proceed.

What if we have to cancel our AGM?

The COVID-19 pandemic might make it difficult to hold your AGM, and to finalise your annual report and accounts.  Wherever possible, OSCR asks that you try to get these to them on time.  All you need to do is log on as usual and scan your reports and accounts.  However, they do understand it might be difficult for some and they will take an understanding and proportionate approach to this.  It may be that by postponing your AGM, you are not fulfilling what it says in your governing document, and here similarly they will take a proportionate approach to this.

They are currently not planning to extend filing deadlines, but are keeping this under review. 

Check the OSCR website for any updates.

What if the current situation has a negative impact on my charity?  Should I be reporting it to OSCR as a notifiable event?

The following paragraph is directly quoted from the OSCR website:

Our notifiable events regime was set-up in order that we might play a role in minimising the impact of serious problems and issues on charities.  By hearing about serious problems at a relatively early stage, the aim was to play a more preventative and facilitative role.  Notifiable events do not cover every incident, only those that may have a significant impact on your charity.

The same would apply in the current situation.  We would only need to hear about something if it was likely to have a serious impact on your charity in the longer term.  It might be that your significant fundraising activity for the year takes place at a time, which means it has to be cancelled.  This might be significant in terms of you being able to carry on with your activities and you would want to report that to us.

However, don’t worry.  Reporting does not need to be at the very top of your list.  Making sure you have the time and space with your fellow trustees to make the right decisions for your organisation is the main thing to be thinking about.  As always, make sure you are recording the decisions you make and the reasons for them.  And, if your trustees do think it is going to have a significant impact on your charity, then let us know as soon as you can.”

Third Sector Resilience Fund

This emergency fund is for charities, voluntary organisations, social enterprises and community groups in Scotland. The fund is designed to support charities that are in financial difficulty due to COVID-19 and aims to provide some financial stability. 

To be eligible you must:

  • Be a charity, voluntary organisation or social enterprise based in Scotland and/or primarily delivering services/activities in Scottish communities.
  • Have been providing activities and/or services before March 2020.
  • Need the funding directly as a result of the impact of COVID-19 and Scotland’s national precautionary measures.
  • Be applying for funding to help with your short term cash flow position.
  • Know how much your monthly outgoings are and the anticipated value of income loss over the next six months (ballpark figure).
  • Know how much funding from you will need to keep your organisation afloat until the end of July 2020 (ballpark figure).

Full details of the fund and how to apply can be found on the SCVO website.

But if you are in any doubt about any of the above topics– check the links noted above first of all in case the guidance has been updated, and if you are still not sure, check with OSCR or the relevant organisation direct.

General sources of information

For the most up-to-date information from the Scottish Government on COVID-19 then go to: - https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/

For health advice go to: - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

For advice about what support is available for businesses go to: - https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/coronavirus-advice

 

Catriona Reynolds
Head of Governance & Engagement
1 April 2020

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay