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Charity Commission and ICAEW Strategic Review Project

ICAEW has collaborated with the Charity Commission to offer reviews to charities on strategy development, implementation and review. The Report details the key findings, themes and recommendations.

ICAEW has collaborated with the Charity Commission to offer reviews to charities on strategy development, implementation and review. The Report details the key findings, themes and recommendations.

These reviews provided an opportunity to charities to receive a free consultation by experienced accountants on the charity’s policies, procedures and practices relating to strategic planning. The collective outcome of the reviews will also provide important feedback to the Commission regarding sector practices in this area.

25 volunteer reviewers and charities participated in the project. The charities selected were all registered with the Charity Commission and with annual income less than £5 million.

The reviews covered general awareness about the processes associated with developing, reviewing and implementing strategies.

Key findings

It has not been a straightforward task to synthesise the reports and draw out clear conclusions. This stems from the very nature of “strategy” as a process with many facets, many influencing factors and different degrees of understanding the process.

It can be only too easy when analysing results from this type of review to concentrate on the negative issues. It is important to highlight these to be able to focus on areas for improvement; however, it is equally important to highlight that many charities in this review have produced effective and efficient strategies. It is also apparent from the review that there are considerable advantages to be gained by charities who undertake the strategy process.

There were a number of general themes emerging from the reviews some extant of the detailed findings on strategy including:

  • Those charities with strategies appear more able to deal with fluctuating economic conditions
  • Few charities considered mergers in their strategies
  • Many trustee boards lacked both financial and general experience, particularly in developing strategies
  • A number of charities appeared to suffer from a conflict between the CEO and trustees
  • Few charities linked strategy to risk assessment
Key themes

There were a number of themes that came from the review, both directly from the reviews and the wider experience of the reviewers. Some of these themes are tangential to strategy, however play an important part in how charities are organised and run and therefore have a direct influence on their strategies.

  • Collaborations and mergers
  • Role and responsibilities of the trustee
  • Relationship between risk and strategy
Recommendations for the Charity Commission

Process

  • Provide Commission guidance on strategy processes and link to risk and impact
  • Encourage charities to use scenario planning techniques in their strategy planning
  • Clarify guidance on conflict with subsidiary and Friends boards

Capability

  • Emphasise the need for trustees to hone their soft skills in dealing with others within their charity
  • Undertake research to further explore the causes of shortcomings in the performance of board effectiveness regarding governance and strategy

Regulation and promotion

  • Encourage funders not to ignore the smaller local charities
  • Encourage umbrella bodies and the like to help develop collaborative working practices
  • Change the law to enable the Commission to refuse registration where a similar charity exists