Legal Matters

We need to point out that VolResource does not employ legally trained staff – the information given on these pages is our understanding from experience and reading, but shouldn’t be taken as definitive. The purpose here is to flag up issues which you may need to explore further and point you in the right direction. You should take legal advice where appropriate.

Copyright and trademarks

See the UK Intellectual Property Office for more details on Trademarks, Copyright and Patents.

Music, Creative Arts

Many people don’t realise they need a licence to play pre-recorded or live music in public – this includes over phones, at events in the office, conferences etc. Some CDs for playing ‘music on hold’ are specially copyright free (actually they cost more to start with, but have no recurring charges). – Community Matters has closed – “offers a low-cost blanket licence to charitable community organisations managing community centres or similar buildings…. The licence covers only the activities run directly by the organisation or by its sections” – annual fee for member organisations £35.25, non-members £47.00. Otherwise, contact PRS for Music (was MCPS – PRS Alliance) on 020 7580 5544. Licensing: phone 020 7306 4500.

Printed publications

Copyright exists on anything which has been published – there is no need to print the copyright symbol, although this usually helps clarify who is the copyright holder. While there isn’t one central clearing house as such, there are various agencies dealing with particular areas. If you wish to reproduce more than a quote or short extract, such as part of a review, you should normally contact the publisher in the first instance.

For copyright on newspaper cuttings, features etc, contact the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA media access), phone 01892 525273, email: The Copyright Licensing Agency licenses photocopying and scanning on other works, and is owned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society and the Publishers Licensing Society, and also operates for the Design and Artists Copyright Society.

Web publishing

Copyright law extends to items published on the web (including this site). We obtain permission before reproducing items here, and would expect the same the other way round. Obviously if somebody is sending out publicity material, there is an expectation that this can be reproduced. So far, it is held that creating links to other web sites is not covered, but it would be highly dubious if a link was disguised to make the connected page seem a part of your own site (= ‘passing off’).


Can include charity logos, trading names. Dealt with by the Intellectual Property Office (was Patent Office), a mark can be registered for UK, Europe or worldwide, but the last can be particularly complex and time-consuming.

Other Common issues


Please see the Working Relations page.

Useful Web Sites

  • Sandy Adirondack, co-author of Voluntary Sector Legal Handbook, has useful info targeted at keeping voluntary organisations up-to-date with relevant legislation, such as topics above, employment law, discrimination legislation etc.
  • British Law is a portal run by volunteers (law researchers and others) linking through to law advice organised by topic, for individuals and small organisations.
  • Law on the Web is mainly advice for individuals and small businesses, but is designed to be highly accessible.
  • compact law (was Law Rights) is a source of ‘free legal information for England and Wales’ mainly for individuals, but includes Health and Safety at Work, Minimum Wage etc.
  • BAILII British and Irish Legal Information Institute provides ‘Comprehensive Access to Freely Available British and Irish Public Legal Information’. Has news and reports on various court decisions, as well as legislation info.
  • LawTel (was New Law Online) – subscription required. For those looking for more in-depth reporting on judgements and other legal matters.
  • International Centre for Not for Profit Law Listed here more for completeness, you can get a list of UK law directly relating to non-profits.

Other key sites

Volunteers and the law

The law around volunteers can be quite complex, depending on circumstances. The following is not intended to be comprehensive or definitive, but what we have found that is likely to be useful. Suggestions for other issues which ought to be covered welcome. NOTE: much of this is now out-of-date.


Don’t forget that volunteers working for you are covered by some of the same (or similar) regulations as employees – for example on health and safety, insurance. So see the Employment issues page. But do note that providing some employee ‘benefits’, such as training not directly related to their work, could muddy their status such that legally they become employees.

Criminal Record Checks

NOTE: much of the following is out of date and should be ignored in favour of guidance from Disclosure and Barring Service on Gov.Uk, or Sandy Adirondack’s legal update page. In Scotland, it is Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) checks – see Disclosure Scotland or Volunteer Scotland resources.

Police checks, criminal record, basic, standard or enhanced, free volunteer disclosures. Some of the search terms which should bring you here!

Criminal record checks for Standard and Enhanced Disclosures are for organisations which work with children or vulnerable adults, provide health care, or certain professions such as accountancy. They are only available to employers who are registered with the Criminal Records Bureau. Such registration costs £300, plus £5 for each additional counter-signatory (person able to sign applications on behalf of the registered body). Organisations can group together and register under an umbrella body.

The individual (employee or volunteer) and registered employer apply jointly for a Standard Disclosure (updated version of criminal record certificate), listing unspent and spent convictions and cautions, or, for some types of work, an Enhanced Disclosure also listing police information such as suspicions that did not lead to a caution or conviction. The Basic Disclosure (still not available at Jan 04 – previously referred to as a criminal conviction certificate) will only cover unspent convictions and any employer (registered or not) will be able to require employees, volunteers or applicants to provide a copy.

The fee for standard disclosures is £24, enhanced £29 (but fees have increased since this was written). However, checks on volunteers are free but they still have to go through a registered body so costs are involved!

Charity shops, other public fundraising

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act you are not allowed to ask an individual to declare spent convictions unless they will be working with vulnerable people. So an organisation can only get Basic Disclosure on charity shop volunteers, unless the shop has vulnerable people working there.

The basic check is applied for direct by the potential volunteer (or employee), with minimal verification. It is NOT free for volunteers, and is unlikely to be much use in preventing fraud etc. round handling money.

Children’s charities

Trustees New recruits to the management committee/trustees to children’s charities (for this purpose, a charity whose workers normally work in regulated positions, as per Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 section36) must be “checked against the register” – Protection of Vulnerable Adults (PoVA) list which should be included in standard disclosures. See ‘No Secrets’ PoVA guidance (Department of Health).

Travel, drivers

On own car use, one suggestion on the UKVPM forum is to use information on AA web site to separate the costs of car ownership from the running costs, and re-imburse the latter only. HM Revenue & Customs mileage rates (see taxation page) are the maximum before tax would hit.

Volunteer Drivers

If you pay Volunteer Drivers anything for ferrying clients etc. around, it is worth checking HM Revenue & Customs guidance. The archived advice (haven’t found current version yet..) covers how to work out whether tax is due on any mileage or other allowances received towards the cost of running the car.

Insurance for volunteers driving their own vehicles in the course of their tasks can be an issue – business cover is likely to be required. RNIB has compiled a list of insurers who are more helpful and found that “even sowing the seed that we might suggest other insurers to our volunteers has always, to date, resulted in a successful outcome”. Increases in premium would be seen by Inland Revenue as part of their approved mileage rates and shouldn’t be reimbursed separately. You may be able to find more on the Association of British Insurers, but ‘Motor Conference’ information page has disappeared at July 09.

Health and Safety

Some Issues

This incorporates some basics from Sandy Adirondack’s legal page:

Health and safety are important, and the standard of care imposed by legislation is pretty much the same regardless of the size of the organisation. All organisations must carry out a risk assessment identifying the risks to employees, other workers, clients, members of the public and anyone who comes onto the organisation’s premises or uses its services. They must then draw up a health and safety scheme setting out a programme to reduce the risks, or to minimise the negative impact if they do happen. The risk assessment and scheme must be in writing if the employer has more than four employees. For these purposes, it is probably best to count any volunteer doing more than a few hours a week as an employee.

Where an employee is under 18, the employer has to carry out a specific assessment taking into account the fact that young people may be inexperienced, immature and/or less aware of risks than adults. These requirements are set out in the Health and Safety (Young Persons) Regulations 1997.

Employers are required to display a Health and Safety information poster prominently, or alternatively circulate an equivalent leaflet to all employees (which should be extended to include regular volunteers) – see HSE entry below. The ‘new’ version of this (published October 1999) must now be in place. They must also register their existence and the nature of their activities with the ‘relevant enforcing authority’. Unless you are involved in manufacturing or provide a service such as television repair, this should be the local authority environment health department. Don’t forget you also need Employers Liability insurance.

Management Committee members (which includes trustees, board members etc.) equate to company directors, and have serious H&S duties. See the Leading Health and Safety at Work section of HSE website.

Most organisations need Public Liability insurance too.


Repetitive Strain Injury aka Upper Limb Disorder (HSE terminology). An estimated 4.2 million working days are lost in Britain each year due to about half a million upper limb or neck disorder sufferers, with each employee taking an average of 13 days off work, says HSE.

  • There is an RSI Action.
  • HSE guidance on the best ways to prevent and manage RSI and similar conditions, updated Feb 02. Upper Limb Disorders in the Workplace, ISBN 0-7176-1978-8, price £9.50.

Food Hygiene

Food hygiene legislation governs the handling, storage and preparation of food on a premises in the course of a business. Occasional sales of cakes, pickles etc for charity shouldn’t be caught by this but it would still be a good idea to follow the associated guidelines where possible. Should be available on Food Standards Agency.

Connected but covered by separate legislation (Food Labelling Regulations 1996) food labelling is not required for food that isn’t prepared as part of a business.

Health and Safety Agencies

Health and Safety Executive

The HSE is the government agency concerned with enforcing regulations in Britain, but also provides a lot of guidance.  Its main site isn’t bad, and they have a number of reasonably well put together micro-sites, including:

Small Business pages Largely applicable to most new (and existing) voluntary organisations, a good starting point and relatively digestible.

Workers web page.

Their material has generally improved a lot, although it can still be a bit heavy. From 2009, many previously priced publications are available for free download, some others can be ordered in single copies free, and there’s loads of useful resources on the website. Also see HSE Bookshop, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 2WA, phone 01787 881165. Leaflets to get include:

  • Health and Safety Law, ref 0717617025, which is the information leaflet you can (and should) circulate to staff (Welsh version ref 0717617408).
  • The OfficeWise leaflet takes a little while to download, due to cartoon graphics, but gives a feel for what you need to think about.
  • We suggest getting the First Aid guidance and Everyone’s Guide to RIDDOR (basically notification of accidents) for reference.

Other relevant publications worth looking out for – please note that we haven’t checked what is available since HSE made many publications free to download.

  • ‘Charities and Voluntary Workers: a guide to health and safety at work’.
  • Fire Safety: An employer’s guide.
  • Basic Advice on First Aid at Work and First Aid at Work: Your questions answered (INDG214L).
  • Guidance for home care service providers: Handling home care: Achieving safe, efficient and positive outcomes for care workers and clients. They say that this is “one of the highest risk areas for back injury”. Union GMB says “Care sector employers must ensure that they use the HSE guide to control stress, take measures to alleviate manual handling problems and ensure a safe working environment”. While aimed at care service managers and others assessing mobility assistance risks, it will also be of interest to care workers. There is also Health and Safety in Care Homes.

Health and Safety Northern Ireland

See the small business advisory service of the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (was a separate website, Health and Safety Works NI). The publication ‘Charity and Voluntary Organisations – a health and safety guide’ (new 2014) seems to have disappeared, Dec. 2016.

Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland is the regulatory body for the country.

Useful Resources

Directory of Social Change run some related training courses.

In Scotland, Healthy Working Lives was set up to address the needs of small and medium enterprises, which includes most voluntary organisations. Occupational Health and Safety Adviceline on 0800 019 2211. Resources section.

The government’s Gov.Uk Health and safety at work pages.

British Safety Council Produce publications, will audit your premises etc, membership available. Phone 020 8741 1231, email:

Chancellor Formecon for health and safety forms and checklists.

See Running an Event page for info on The Good Practice Safety Guide for small events and sporting events on highways, roads, and in public places.

London Hazards Centre Free advice service for Londoners, particularly aimed at community groups and workplace health and safety reps. Also information resources (some available to members over the web), training, inspections, research. Hampstead Town Hall Centre, 213 Haverstock Hill, London, NW3 4QP, phone 020 7794 5999, email:

Institution of Occupational Safety & Health The professional body for safety and health practitioners. Register of consultants, information, training.

Labour Research Department, the trade union research organisation, produces a monthly health and safety bulletin Safety Rep. For further details, phone Paul Stephenson or Andrea Oates on 020 7902 9826, email:

The TUC has set up a health and safety campaign for young workers, with an advice leaflet, Work Safe. Know you Rights phone line: 0870 600 7882. The TUC Health and Safety web pages has lots of material – under Workplace guidance. You can register for a weekly Risks e-bulletin, although the VolResource email newsletter should extract all the relevant items. The Hazards at Work Manual gives very comprehensive coverage – available for order from TUC Publications. General contact for TUC Publications, Congress House, Great Russell St, London, WC1B 3LS.

Hazards magazine is TUC supported, with various news and factsheets available from the web site

Safeworkers is another site providing information around workplace safety, although the lack of information about their authors and expertise doesn’t generate trust in its material.

Various publishers have Health and Safety manuals. Gee’s Health and Safety FactFinder includes CD-ROM updated 6 times a year, phone helpline, email alert on news items, bimonthly newsletter. Not cheap – £700 odd – but should cover everything you need. See contact info on Admin page.

First Aid Training (and kits) can be sourced from a number of charities, such as British Red Cross, St Johns Ambulance.

Working Conditions

Some of these could fall under Health and Safety, but may be more about establishing a good working environment than a ‘legal minimum’:

Temperature There is a minimum (16 degrees Celsius), but no maximum. However, hot and sticky workers are not going to be happy or productive. Possible remedies: fans, blinds (suitably adjustable), cooled water dispenser.

Smoking Indoor smoking bans have been around for a while now, so the websites set up at their introduction are starting to be retired (spring 2015). Try these links:

Smells Some people are very sensitive, for one reason or another, to chemicals in perfumes. Bans have already happened in the US, under disability legislation. Could your organisation have an issue?

Disabled Access Are there simple things you can do to improve accessibility? See Building Management section. Organisations are now obliged to consider access issues when providing services, although practicability of making changes (including cost where there are limited funds) should be taken into account. A one-off funding application for widening access is often attractive to charitable trusts, and also some statutory funders.



Buildings, office and communication management, admin resources etc.

General administrative matters not featured elsewhere on VolResource.

Health and Safety has a separate page.

Communications admin

Telecoms advice TelecomsAdvice is an independent website for small businesses who need to know about using telecoms and the Internet.

Handling phone volume surges While there are quite a lot of call centre services around, not all will understand enough about the sector to provide appropriate handling of awareness campaigns, good or bad publicity surges and the like. Those involved with fundraising or membership processing may be well placed – see Membership services. Otherwise try BSS, a registered charity which runs BSS Linklines (phone 0161 455 1206).

BT’s online Phone Book (aka Directory Enquiries). If you have name and area, and perhaps part of the address, try this facility.

Telephone & Fax Preference Services Online look-up Data Protection regulations now make it illegal to carry out direct marketing via phone calls (or fax) to individuals who have opted-out. There is a corporate TPS where organisations can register to avoid getting cold calls. Those undertaking direct marketing must check against these lists – more details.

Postcodes and address validation To find a postcode for an address, or look up a postcode, see the Royal Mail.

Postage Rates There is a Calculator on the Royal Mail site, as well as straight Postal Prices info.

Other online address or phone number databases. There are various online business search sites. They keep on changing, so do a Google to find!

Telephone Conferencing

Community Network used to provide this service for charities and other not-for-profit agencies, but as the website forwards to The Phone Coop (at April 2014) we presume it has closed.

BT Conferencing has various options, including Conference Call Presence, which puts conference phone calls alongside web meeting facilities (for up to 20), so you can share documents, ‘whiteboard’, presentations etc as you talk (you will need to have internet access separate from your voice phone line). No set-up costs, but 50p per participant per minute. Phone 0800 800 778.

There are certainly other such services, and voice over internet (VOIP) services such as Skype (mainly free, but more sophisticated services cost) provide a cost-effective approach, particularly for international calls.

Building management

A greatly neglected area but a well-managed building (whether an office, community centre or whatever) can make a lot of difference in the motivation of staff and how efficiently the organisation runs. On the downside, problems can create a lot of friction and be very time-consuming to resolve.

Community Matters has closed (was the place to go on all things community building).

Rural community/village halls – see ACRE’s Village Halls information service. In Scotland, check SCVO services, as they did have a village halls network.

Food Hygiene: Food Standards Agency’s ‘Community and charity food provision: guidance on the application of EU food hygiene law‘ current link appears to have gone at April 2018, so this is to a 2015 draft! Particularly targeted at community halls.

The Carbon Trust provides energy saving services. Also see the self-survey pack Energy Efficiency in Community Buildings, which advises on what measures and improvements could be made, depending on how the building is used and how often, and provides pointers to further support and advice. Was available from National Energy Action publications page.

The Ethical Property Foundation has set up an advice web site, covering key property issues around looking for an office, moving in or out, and managing your office which gives more detail on some of the issues below. Further advice, particularly for London-based groups, is available.

Also see: Charities Facilities Management Special Interest Group of Upkeep, listed on Functional Support page; Premises section of suppliers page.

Some areas to check out


See the Insurances info page.


National Non-Domestic Rates are applicable in England and Wales on all non-residential properties. Apply for mandatory charity 80% relief as soon as you receive an assessment, if not before, and see whether you can apply for the remaining discretionary 20%. Voluntary organisations which aren’t registered charities will have to check out the local council’s policy on extending this to them. Revaluations generally every 5 years – 2005, 2010. Check the Business Premises section of Gov.Uk (or search for Valuation Office Agency) – if you know your charging (local) authority and postcode you can get the current Rateable Value here. (Their explanation of the system includes the multiplier to use when calculating actual rates.) DCLG is the responsible government department.


If you are going to install an alarm, how many people do you need to act as keyholders for call-outs? Can they actually get there out-of-hours (safely)? The less people operating the system, the fewer false alarms you are likely to get – police cover is usually removed if there are too many of these in a given period (at time of writing, 7 in a year in Met Police area, or 4 if cover has previously been withdrawn.) In urban areas, you can probably pay for a ‘keyholding’ service, which will answer call-outs and re-set the system for you, but make sure you are clear what each call-out costs.

Trading company

Charities often set up trading companies to carry out ‘non-charitable’ aspects of their work, whether its selling merchandise or commercial sponsorship deals. Smaller organisations won’t have separate staff, and ‘just’ apportion costs appropriately. Where the parent is a registered charity, care should be taken over charging a trading subsidiary a proper market rent, as subsidy is not allowed under charity law. (Source advice from Russell Cooke Solicitors charity team.)

TV licence

Businesses (which includes most voluntary organisations) need a licence to cover each premises they occupy. As well as television sets, dont forget this includes video recorders and TV enabled PCs. Multiple premises can be listed on one licence by arrangement. Concessionary rates for ‘Accommodation for Residential Care’, phone 0870 240 1291 for info or see web site. TV Licensing, Bristol, BS98 1TL.


Disabled access to services has implications for premises. From 1st October 2004 service providers have to take reasonable steps to alter premises or other physical features that make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service. If you manage premises intended for public use, an access audit would be in order – identifying what the problems are, how to eliminate them, budget costs and a prioritised action plan to use for fundraising. See Equal Ops section on VolResource for more links on disability issues (in service provision and employment).

The Centre for Accessible Environments has some information available online and may be able to provide cheap or even free advice to community groups.

Admin Resources

Don’t forget that specific areas of admin (such as charity registration) are dealt with on other VolResource pages.

ICSA (Institute for Chartered Secretaries and Administrators) Charity Secretaries Group may have closed, – for chartered secretaries and others taking on a company secretarial role in voluntary organisations. Contact ICSA, 16 Park Crescent, London, W1N 4AH, phone 020 7612 7040.

TSO Online Bookshop (was The Stationery Office) is the key source for all statutory publications, and a wide range of official and business publications.

Handbooks and Manuals

There are a number of publishers of manuals on such things as Health and Safety, Company Administration, Payroll, and the like – Tolleys, Jordans and Croners are listed on the Publishers page as they also do some specific to the voluntary sector.

Another publisher in the field is/was Gee, now part of Wolters Kluwer (along with Croners).


Overview, types of governing body, checklist for committee members


Governance – the systems and processes concerned with ensuring the overall direction, effectiveness, supervision and accountability of an organisation. from Cornforth via ChangeUp (2004)

NB We will use ‘The Board’ to equate with Management Committee, Board of Trustees or Directors or any other title the governing body is called.

Governance is very much a live issue in the charity world at present. Both via SORP (accounting standards) and greater monitoring, the Charity Commission is out to ensure The Board are clear on their legal responsibilities and how these are carried through by the activities of staff or volunteers. With increased contracting of care and other services to the voluntary sector, rather than the commercial or public, journalists, politicians and commentators are recognising the management weaknesses which have previously been ignored because of the ‘good cause’ perspective.

The Board, however composed or called, has ultimate legal responsibility for the organisation. Much may be delegated, but there must be clear lines of authority – key is defining responsibility reporting, to ensure that information of the right type and detail for the organisation’s size and complexity gets to Board members in a reasonable timescale. Boards should meet frequently enough to handle the resulting workload, although sub-committees and officers can play a part.

Strategy, policy matters and monitoring of efficiency and effectiveness are often quoted as the function of the Board. Operational details should be left to staff and volunteers. However, particularly in smaller organisations, it is not easy to be so clear cut. Board members may be closely involved in the work and will often comment on their experience at the ‘front line’. Here they should try to recognise that they are really wearing a different hat, as a volunteer or ordinary member, and not confuse it with their essential Board role.

Functions can be classified under five headings, according to Margaret Harris (Professor of Vol Sector Organisation at Aston University Business School, quoted in Voluntary Organisations and Social Policy):

  • being the employer
  • formulating and monitoring adherence to agency goals
  • securing and safeguarding resources
  • being the point of final accountability
  • providing a link or buffer between the agency on the one hand and its external stakeholders and environment on the other.

Checklist for Trustees/Management Committee members

  • Is it a Limited Company? If yes:
    • You are therefore a company director, subject to company law.
    • Check the Companies House web site. Essential information and downloadable forms are available here. If your organisation is registered under Industrial and Provident/Friendly Society legislation – ignore the next two points.
    • Newly appointed? Form 288a must be filled in and returned (don’t forget the date of birth box!). The timetable for this is very tight but in practice just get it in a.s.a.p.
    • Companies House has been in recent years sending out info on director responsibilities to newcomers – check with your organisation if nothing arrives after filling in the form.
    • Who is the Company Secretary? This is not an optional post. Often the most senior staff member carries out this role (they can even in a charity as they are not automatically a director).
    • Is it required to hold AGMs?
  • If not a limited company, has this been considered? See our Registration page.
  • Is it a registered Charity? If yes:
    • You are therefore a trustee, subject to charity law.
    • In England or Wales, see the Charity Commission web site. They have an introductory leaflet for new trustees, downloadable.
    • Has the charity made it annual return, on time or at all? This used to be a non-event, but the Charity Commission are now will be pursuing defaulters much more vigorously.
    • See our page on various Trustee resources.
  • Are you an Officer – Chair, Treasurer, Secretary? If yes:
    • Is there a job description for the post? If not, find a model or at worst draw up your own, listing the areas you believe are your responsibility, who you need to work with etc. (Try ICSA Guidance notes.) Then circulate it for comment, and possibly approval.
  • Do you know how the following duties are carried out within the organisation?
  • Have you seen ….
    • The most recent annual accounts? Are they audited? If not, why is this?
    • The ‘Mem and Arts’ if a limited company, or other constitution.
    • Procedures for conducting Board and other meetings? May be in constitution or separate ‘standing orders’.
    • A list of approved policies and procedures, and know how to get copies?

Types of Governing body

Five ‘types’ of governing body have been identified. This approach can be used to examine how it relates to the rest of the organisation, and management consequences. (Research by Vic Murray and Pat Bradshaw-Camball as reproduced in Open University Business School course B789.)

  • Approving. Well established, serviced by a professional manager who makes recommendations on all major issues, with sub-committees and few votes.
  • Leaders. Honorary officers or the whole group are strongly committed and zealous in their pursuit of the organisations goals, with staff there to implement. Communication is often personal, and an expectation placed upon senior staff to have unquestioning loyalty.
  • Representative. All stakeholders (see Working Relations) well represented on the governing body, with multiple and potentially conflicting goals, objectives, and values. There will be power contests and staff and governors are seen more in terms of their commitments than their formal roles. The senior manager will have to be politically astute!
  • Consensual. Rejects the traditional roles and structures, and only acknowledges them on paper where legally necessary. Rotating offices, sharing experience and responsibility etc are characteristic.The senior manager will need to provide appropriate support to committees and consensus. Tensions are likely to arise over employment rights, and some will gain considerably from opportunities made available.
  • Involved. Lacks clear direction, leadership or agreed purpose. Loads of energy and commitment, but lacking in co-ordination. Achievements will be uneven and the senior manager may be expected to both provide support and be closely controlled by the governing body. This scenario is frequent in early days of a voluntary organisation.

The Recent Picture

From research done by Chris Cornforth at Open University Business School, using postal questionnaires sent to 2797 charities, with a 26% response rate:
– Only about 35% of charities provide job descriptions for board members.
– Only 23% provide some sort of initial training or induction for new board members.
– These percentages are somewhat higher for the larger charities (the range goes from 20% for the smallest to 77% for the largest!).
– Average frequency of board meetings was between 5 and 7 a year.
– The size of board in small to medium charities is increasing, but decreasing in larger charities.
– The average size of boards increases with organisation size, going from under 9 in the smallest charities, up to almost 21 for the largest.

The full results from this research are in ‘Recent Trends in Charity Governance and Trusteeship’ published May ’01 by National Council for Voluntary Organisations, ISBN 07199 15910, £12.50.

Further Resources


See magazine listings re Governance bi-monthly.

On the Web

NCVO’s Governance resources.

Governance pages is from research body ARVAC “information on governance and management committees for community groups and small voluntary organisations”.

Governance in the Jewish voluntary sector Report for Jewish Policy Research, 2001.

Founder Syndrome. Seemingly an international issue, we recognise the picture given in a piece on Help4Nonprofits. We would add to the problems associated with founders carrying on running an organisation for too long: carrying a sense of history and mindset which may make it difficult to recognise how things have changed; thinking that nobody else can do what they do (possibly true but this perception is often wrong) when there are other ways that the organisation can (and perhaps should) work.

Information Sources

Key sites for information, news, sector directories etc.

Key sector information sites

Other key resources

News sources

Some of the sites appearing above, and other specialist sources listed elsewhere, will also carry relevant news for their areas.

Useful online/email newsletters


Do remember that legal matters and the role (and jargon) of the voluntary sector differ from country to country.

Blogs, Social Media

Blogs and forums often come with RSS (news) feeds built-in – a simple way to deliver summaries of frequently changing web content via news readers or similar tools.

  • Discussion lists and forums connected with a specific function (e.g. IT support) will appear on the relevant page covering support bodies.

Directories – voluntary organisations, charities

There are a number of websites vying to be the directory of choice. The online registers from the charity regulators are also generally quite useful.

  • Open Charities is a project “to open up the UK Charities Register” (although it only has done England and Wales so far).
  • Charity Financials (was Charities Direct) from Caritas Data. They claim to have regularly updated info on over 10,000 charities, although there have been queries about how accurate it is. Also lists/profiles various professional advisers.
  • Charity Choice This database is also available in hard copy. Online you can search by category, name, location, charity registration number etc. Has phone numbers and some web site links. From business information publisher, Wilmington.
  • CharityLibrary hasn’t developed very far (approx 2,000 with some form of listing at spring 20211).

Useful non-UK sites

The following are worth checking out if you have a) the time b) the inclination to filter out the foreign, mainly American, specific content. Remember that legal matters, non-profit boards and the whole approach to philanthropy/giving can be very different to that in the UK.

  • Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy (CNP), part of Urban Institute. Projects include the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) and Research Initiative on Nonprofit Advocacy.
  • National Council of Nonprofits website has a resources section.
  • Idealist An international project of Action without Borders, based in the US.  You can search on various topics and by country, date of event.
  • The Balance (was has a Non-Profit channel – plenty of stuff but very American.
  • Management Help general library page has links to management articles of varying relevance and quality.
  • In Canada: nonprofit ‘supersite’ Charity Village, or Sector Source site from Imagine Canada.