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Charity finance basics - part one

Understanding and managing the financial health of a charity is a vital part of trustees’ compliance with their legal duties to:

  • act in the interests of their charity and its beneficiaries
  • protect and safeguard the assets of their charity
  • act with reasonable care and skill

Therefore, the information they require should be communicated in a way that enables trustees to carry out their responsibilities and take appropriate actions. Whilst the details and format may vary (for example dependent on the size and complexity of a charity), ultimately the financial information provided should always be understandable, accurate and timely.

Each trustee meeting should have information presented that includes details of the charity's financial position and performance. Information should be sent to each trustee ahead of each meeting to enable scrutiny in advance, and will typically include:

  • the latest management accounts;
  • a comparison between budget and actual results;
  • an explanation for variances between forecasts and what actually happened;
  • details of cash flow and closing bank balances.

The meeting should set aside a specific time within the agenda for discussion of financial matters and allow the trustees to raise any issues of concern.

Needless to say, we have built processes within BoardSecure that enable charities to follow this guidance painlessly – to see more about these features see here.

(This advice is found with “CC8 – Internal Financial Controls for Charities”, produced by the Charity Commission, and the word ‘should’ is used for minimum good practice guidance you should follow unless there’s a good reason not to)

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