Frequently Asked Questions - Running an organisation
The management committee of a voluntary or community organisation is the group of people who come together to organise the wider group and decide how it will be run. The committee is responsible for the management and administration of the organisation.
The management committee needs to ensure that the organisation meets its objectives, and follows the procedures laid out in the constitution or rules.
The committee needs to:
- Ensure that any actions taken and decisions made are in the interests of the organisation and beneficiaries (not for the personal benefit of committee members)
- Ensure that accounts and reports are completed, and the organisation manages its assets and resources correctly
- Set overall policy and objectives for the organisation, and decide on new work
- Set up systems for monitoring and evaluation
- Promote the organisation
- Meet regularly
- Make sure that the organisation operates within the law
It is important that the committee has the skills to oversee the work of the organisation, and the time to be committed to developing it. The committee is ultimately responsible for everything the organisation does.
The committee usually elects a Chair, Secretary and Treasurer (and sometimes a Vice Chair), who fulfil particular roles within the group.
Almost anyone! The constitution or rules will say who is entitled to be a member of the group's committee, but there may be certain people who cannot be by law (e.g. under 18 year olds, people with an unspent criminal conviction or people who are bankrupt).
The Chair's responsibilities involve planning and running meetings. This includes:
- Ensuring meetings are held (in accordance with the rules set by the constitution)
- Helping plan the agenda and papers, and checking actioned items have been carried out as agreed
- Ensuring the meeting is quorate (it has enough people present to make decisions – this will be set out in the rules)
- Signing previous minutes and ensuring the agenda is adhered to
- Making sure everyone has a chance to participate in the meeting
- Ensuring voting procedures are complied with, key decisions are made and minutes taken
Depending on the size and nature of the organisation, there may be tasks around supporting or supervising staff, taking part in staff recruitment, acting as a spokesperson for the group, and making some decisions (depending on the constitution). She/he might also be a signatory on the group's bank account.
A good Chair should:
- Be able to clarify, explain and summarise
- Consider everyone's suggestions, and make sure everyone gets the chance to speak
- Follow the agenda and stick to the times set for items
- Try to be objective and unbiased
- Be patient
- Stimulate group discussions
- Make sure people understand the decisions being made
The Vice Chair's main role is to chair meetings if the Chair is absent. He or she may take on additional responsibilities (i.e. some of the Chair's tasks) if the group decide to split the role.
The role of the Treasurer revolves around management of finances, (but the committee as a whole are all jointly and individually responsible for the management of money). The Treasurer’s duties include:
- Financial management and keeping records
- Managing income, including collecting fees and ensuring funding due is received
- Financial planning and budgeting (with the rest of the committee)
- Book keeping and record keeping
- Being involved in fundraising applications and reports
- Dealing with banking arrangements (the treasurer is usually one of the signatories)
- Preparing annual accounts and /or liaising with accountant
- Reporting regularly to the committee about the group’s finances
A good treasurer should:
- Be able to manage money effectively
- Keep track of income and expenditure
- Be able to produce clear reports regularly
- Have an understanding of what can and can’t be spent by the organisation (and on what)
In an unincorporated group (a group that is not registered as a company) the Secretary’s role includes:
- Ensuring meetings are called and papers circulated (in line with the rules laid out in the constitution)
- Taking minutes of meetings
- Keeping records of members’ details
- Ensuring reports are written and accounts submitted
- Booking meeting venues/ refreshments
- Dealing with any other correspondence
A good Secretary should:
- Be organised
- Be able to take clear, concise minutes
- Work with the Chair
- Keep clear records
- Be able to write letters on behalf of the group
To be a charity, an organisation must demonstrate that it has purposes that are exclusively charitable. It must also show that it provides a public benefit.
A charity’s purposes are its aims or objects, which are usually set out in its governing document. The “charitable purposes” set out in the Charities Act 2006 are:
- The prevention and relief of poverty
- The advancement of education
- The advancement of religion
- The advancement of health
- The advancement of citizenship or community development
- The advancement of arts, heritage or science
- The advancement of amateur sport
- The advancement of human rights, conflict resolution or reconciliation
- The advancement of environmental protection and improvement
- The relief of those in need, by reason of youth, age, ill-health, disability, financial disadvantage or other disadvantage
- The advancement of animal welfare
- The promotion of the efficiency of the armed forces of the Crown
- Other purposes recognised under existing charity law or considered "analogous" to any of the above
- can enjoy relief from some taxes;
- pay no more than 20% of normal business rates on the buildings which they use and occupy to further their charitable purposes;
- can be eligible for special VAT treatment in certain circumstances;
- are often able to raise funds more easily than non-charitable bodies;
- can formally represent, and help to meet the needs of, the community.
There are restrictions on what charities can do, both in terms of the types of work they do, and the ways in which they can operate:
- a charity must have exclusively charitable purposes
- there are limits to the amount of political or campaigning activities that a charity can be involved in
- strict rules apply to trading by charities
- trustees are not allowed to receive financial benefits from the charity that they manage unless this is specifically authorised by the charity’s governing document or by the Charity Commission
- trustees must avoid any situation where charitable and personal interests conflict
- charity law imposes certain financial reporting obligations (these vary depending on the size of the charity)
If an organisation has exclusively charitable purposes and one or more of the following minimum requirements for registration, then it must register with the Charity Commission:
- an income of more than £5,000 a year; or
- the use or occupation of any land or buildings; or
- assets which constitute permanent endowment (ie where there is a restriction on the expenditure of the capital and (normally) only the income can be spent on the charity’s purposes)
The Charity Commission says that, in exceptional circumstances, it will consider registering a charity that does not meet these minimum requirements.
You should only register your organisation if you believe that its purposes are exclusively charitable and it meets the minimum requirements for registering.
Online registration (or an application pack) is available from the Charity Commission website: www.charitycommission.gov.uk or telephone 0845 300 0218 (Contact Centre)
Remember that the Charity Commission receives lots of registration applications and does not know your organisation. You should therefore provide as much supporting literature with your application as you can. This could be promotional literature, grant applications if applicable, newspaper articles, business plans and so on. You should also provide a full description of your proposed activities.
We can work with you to make sure your governing document is suitable for charity registration. Once you have amended your governing document, or adopted a new one, we can help you to complete the charity registration process. Remember to keep a copy of everything that you send to the Charity Commission.
Hopefully, your application will be straightforward, but if you have any problems during the registration process we can liaise with the Charity Commission on your behalf.
We can also help you identify suitable organisations to approach for funding (although we can’t help you actually fill in funding applications). And we can give you ongoing support as your voluntary organisation grows.
All this help is completely free. To access it, contact York CVS’s Development team.
Registration leads to a number of ongoing duties and responsibilities, such as:
- keeping your charity’s accounts
- telling the Charity Commission of any changes to your governing document
- telling the Charity Commission of any changes to the details of your charity that appear on the Register of Charities (such as the name and address of the charity correspondent)
- sending back the Annual Return issued by the Charity Commission (if your annual income or expenditure is over £10,000). This should be accompanied by the Charity’s Accounts, Examiner’s or Auditor’s Report and Trustees’ Annual Report.