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Volunteering Community

Reflections from our Charity Conference – 20 & 21 January 2022

Author: Kristina Kopic, Head of Charity and Voluntary Sector, ICAEW

Published: 08 Feb 2022

Kristina Kopic, ICAEW’s Head of Charity and Voluntary Sector, shares her thoughts on the recent Charity Conference and reflects on the themes that emerged from the Conference.

It was great to welcome so many of you to our Charity Conference in January. This was our second virtual Conference and our biggest yet with over five hundred bookings and great engagement in each session. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive with almost all survey respondents rating it as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. However, I always pay close attention to suggestions so we can make the next Conference even better, and you can still share your ideas with me by email (kristina.kopic@icaew.com). The survey also showed that 4 out of 5 delegates wanted the Conference to remain in the first quarter of the year, and 3 out of 5 respondents were keen to retain the virtual format. I will take this into account when we plan the next Conference.

I know that many of you join the Conference to keep up to date with charity accounting, tax and regulation, and we are committed to deliver informative and engaging technical sessions, including updates on the SORP Development. However, the Conference is also an opportunity to hear from charity leaders, get inspired and think strategically about how we can make the greatest impact for the charities we support, whether we work within the sector, are advisors or volunteers.

On the first day of the Conference, we reflected on the challenge of balancing capacity with need in the sector and heard from Mike Adamson, CEO of the British Red Cross, about how the pandemic challenged their thinking and practice in this regard. He explained how the British Red Cross responded by mapping capacity to vulnerabilities and encouraged accountants to use their skills to budget for impact as well as financial resilience. Our panel session on financial risk explored how different types of charities were affected by the pandemic and what their key challenges were likely to be in the coming months now that government support was coming to an end and the true impact of the pandemic would be felt.

On the second day of the Conference, Pro Bono Economics CEO Matt Whittaker shared insights from the Law Family Commission on Civil Society’s exploration of the role that charities and other social sector organisations could play in the UK’s post-pandemic renewal agenda. He showed that the sector has remained resilient despite the significant pressures caused by the mismatch between increased demand and limited capacity. However, this had led to unmet demand and meant that more people were unable to access the support they needed. The second consequence of this mismatch is increased pressure on the people within the charity sector, and there is now a worrying risk of burnout, particularly for executive managers and other employees, but also for volunteers. With this in mind, please let me know how ICAEW can support you better in your voluntary roles.

Our closing keynote of the Conference came from Claire Dove CBE, who is the VCSE Crown Representative and acts as an intermediary between the Government and the voluntary and social enterprise sectors. In this role, she champions the Social Value Act and improvements in commissioning practices. Claire shared advice on how charities and social enterprises can successfully work with government to take advantage of the levelling up agenda and maximise their impact.

I hope that you enjoyed the Charity Conference and found the sessions useful and thought-provoking. If you couldn’t join the Conference live, you can still access the recordings of all Conference sessions.