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Creating a safer organisation as a CEO

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Safeguarding is a key priority for governance, no matter who your organisation works with. Together, you must ‘think the unthinkable’ and be aware that serious safeguarding issues can happen anywhere. Developing a safer organisation, where everyone understands their right to be safe and knows how to speak up when problems arise, requires a focused effort at every level.

The CEO’s role

As the leader of your organisation – whether your title is chief executive or something else – you have responsibilities to keep other staff, volunteers and people who come into contact with your organisation, safe. You must make safeguarding a central part of your organisation’s culture, strategy and delivery. Depending on your structure, this guide may also be relevant to those leading activities in volunteer-led organisations.

You need to make sure that:

  • volunteers and staff understand their responsibilities in creating a safer organisation
  • there is a culture of openness, where everyone feels able to speak up and voice concerns
  • your board understand the importance of safeguarding
  • your designated safeguarding lead knows how to do their role well and has good training and support
  • any concerns or allegations are promptly investigated and reported.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Do I encourage a safer organisational culture in what I say and do?
  • How is safeguarding embedded in our policies and procedures?
  • How is safeguarding embedded in our code of conduct?
  • Do our everyday practices reflect our policies, procedures and code of conduct?
  • Are our policies and procedures up to date and relevant?
  • How do we make sure our staff and volunteers are all contributing to keeping people safe?
  • How do we challenge ourselves when we’re worried about safeguarding?

Embedding safeguarding in your organisation

As you lead your organisation, you need to inspire, supervise and motivate your teams to make sure safeguarding best practice is being implemented across the organisation. This list helps you find resources that cover best practice in a range of strategic areas.


You need to make sure that your board understand their responsibilities and are able to fully support you. The Charity Commission has high expectations on trustees responsibilities in relation to safeguarding, no matter who the organisation works with.

Designated safeguarding leads (DSL)

In a small organisation, as CEO, you might also be the designated safeguarding lead. However if another person can take on this role, they should. This allows you to share safeguarding duties, particularly when dealing with incidents. We have guides for:

Leading your staff team

Safety should be considered at every stage of the recruitment and supervision process. The work your team needs to do depends on the level of safeguarding risk.

Operational delivery

How your organisation delivers its purpose can reduce risks of harm to others.

Management and supervision of volunteers

Safeguarding needs to be clearly set out within your plans for supporting volunteers.


Volunteers, staff and trustees need to understand their responsibilities in keeping people safe. Training is one of the most effective ways to do this. The Charity Commission expect you to review the safeguarding training you provide every year.


Whistleblowing policies protect your organisation and its staff.

Fundraising and safeguarding

With fundraising, there are specific risks of harm to donors, the public and your staff and volunteers. You must make sure that your fundraising team understand the particular risks.

Wider ethics and organisational culture

Safeguarding is just one part of your work as CEO. If you’d like to know more about taking an overall approach to making charities a safer place, you can use NCVO's charity ethical principles.

If you want to undertake a wide range conversation in your organisation about culture changes to improve safeguarding against all types of harm, including sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment, you can use the tool from BOND for developing and modelling a positive safeguarding culture. It is designed mainly for international development organisations but it could be adapted for any organisation.

Last reviewed: 06 December 2018

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 06 December 2018

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