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Conflicts of Interest - who is responsible?

We were reflecting on one of the calls into our helpdesk this week - a trustee of a smaller charity in england asking for guidance on who was responsible for managing conflicts of interest within his charity, i.e. him, his Chair or the Board overall.

While the strict legal position is clear and direct - that these are all board responsibilities - in practice we suspect that this is a regular problem troubling many trustees.

So we set out to research the matter further - and to our surprise this isn't an area with a huge amount of research or guidance sitting behind it.

Possibly the most recent, and illustrative work, is that contained in the Charity Commission's own 'Taken on Trust' report from 2017. A nugget in this report reads that only 34% of trustees thought that the Chair is responsible for avoiding conflicts of interest at board meetings (whilst 60% of Chairs thought they were responsible), whilst only 19% of trustees thought that the Chair is responsible for avoiding conflicts of interest in charity operations (35% of Chairs felt they were).

Either way there is perhaps less certainty shown by trustees than we'd previously assumed.

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The Conflicts of Interest tool built into BoardSecure (visible to all meeting attendees, updateable by all trustees and reportable for each Board meeting by the adminstrator) has been deliberately created to help highlight this area to more trustees, not least as it continues to be an area of interest to the Regulator.

Let us know how you find the tool in use - or if you aren't already using BoardSecure to find gaps in your basic governance processes please call or email us for more on how we might help.

While the strict legal position is that these are all board responsibilities, it is perhaps encouraging that chairs and treasurers regard them as their personal responsibility, as this makes it more likely that they will actually be carried out.

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