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Charity Finance Professionals Community

Reflections on the Challenge of Impact

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

Published: 01 Mar 2021

Kristina Kopic, Head of Charity and Voluntary Sector at ICAEW, shares her thoughts on ICAEW’s first virtual Charity Conference, held in January, and reflects on the keynote “The challenge of Impact”, delivered by the founder of Social Value International, Jeremy Nicholls.

It was great that so many of you were able to join the Charity Conference on 21 and 22 January. We have previously held the Conference as a face-to-face event at a London location each year in the summer. However, there were advantages to holding the Conference virtually as we reached a much larger audience. The feedback was very positive, in fact, most delegates told us they preferred the virtual format. What did you think?

One of the most popular and thought-provoking sessions at the Conference addressed the Challenge of Impact – a challenge of accountability. Our speaker, chartered accountant Jeremy Nicholls, founded the membership organisation Social Value International for individuals and organisations supporting principles and standards in accounting for social and environmental impact. Jeremy challenged us to apply financial reporting principles to improve accountability in the charity sector. He argued that in the private sector, the auditor is there to protect and act in the interest of the shareholder, but in the charity sector, the same level of accountability does not apply.

“The beneficiaries do not get to attend the AGM, they do not get to sack the board of directors, they do not get to sell their shares and go somewhere else. They generally have no real power”

As a result, it is even more important for non-profits to not only measure their impact, but to seek independent assurance of their impact report.

“Somebody should act in the interest of the people whose lives we are changing and check that the information that is being produced is reasonably complete and accurate.”

If you enjoyed Jeremy’s keynote, you may like to further explore the concept of social value,  and read his recent article ‘The missing piece from Mark Carney's Reith lecture on value.’

I hope that you enjoyed the Charity Conference and found the sessions useful and thought-provoking. If you weren’t able to join the Conference live, you can still buy your ‘ticket’ to access the recordings of all Conference sessions here.