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Use this page to learn about what governance is and how it applies to charities.
Governance is defined as:
The systems and processes concerned with ensuring the overall direction, effectiveness, supervision and accountability of an organisation.
(The Governance of Voluntary Organisations, Cornforth 2003)
The four aspects of this definition are all important for boards to focus on and meet their duties as trustees. In a well-governed organisation, the board and governance structure will provide:
Governance arrangements, legal requirements or regulation may differ in non-charitable organisations. We also have specific guidance if you're looking to set up a new organisation.
A charity is governed by a trustee board that takes responsibility for all elements of the charity's work. Trustees have specific duties which they must follow.
The Charity Commission regulates all charities in England and Wales. They set out trustee duties and how boards should govern charities. A board may have to report each year on their work and the governance. Amongst other factors, this will depend on the charity's size.
Governance is a board responsibility. Yet, governance runs throughout a charity. The board will often rely on many people to govern well such as:
These people will all play a role in providing information and supporting the board to govern.
If you’re both a trustee and a volunteer in a charity it’s important to distinguish between your governance role and any other roles you may carry out. This is to make sure those you’re working with understand the particular tasks and responsibilities that relate to each role.
Find out more about trustee legal duties.
Last reviewed: 02 May 2022Help us improve this content
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