Coronavirus: Advice for your organisation 


Volunteering and coronavirus: How you can help


Deptherapy seek to rehabilitate UK Armed Services’ veterans who have suffered life changing mental and/or physical challenges through the medium of specially designed, adaptive scuba-diving teaching courses. They also provide 24/7 support to programme members who need support. They are acknowledged as the world leaders in adaptive scuba diving techniques and their advice is sought after across the globe.

“When I was invited to be President of Deptherapy, I first wanted to understand their governance; as a chartered director this is very important to me. Receiving the NCVO Trusted Charity Mark is official recognition of what I found: a charity run in a way others should absolutely aspire to match.” Debra Lilley, who became President of Deptherapy in April 2019.

In this case study chairman and head of operations, Richard Cullen, tells us about their Trusted Charity journey, and how a volunteer led organisation managed to implement the standards and go on to achieve the Trusted Charity Mark all within six months.

What have been the overall benefits of achieving the Trusted Charity Mark?

The military charity sector is a very competitive market and anything that gives us an advantage over our competitors is to be grasped with both hands. Deptherapy is in real terms, a tiny, niche charity that is not overly in the public eye. We wanted to show potential corporate sponsors and funders that we are different; that we are a well-managed, governed and run an organisation that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the big hitters.

The big benefit to us is that it shows us that the organisation we developed is as good as we thought it was but there were other benefits to achieving the Trusted Charity Mark. The mark demonstrates commercial confidence, and it has allowed us to show a potential corporate sponsor and a major funder that we do not need months of due diligence to show we are well governed because we have the Trusted Charity Mark to do that. The mark stands proud for the organisation as a testament to the quality of our work.

How would you describe the effects of the Trusted Charity Mark assessment journey on your organisation?

Our journey was exceptionally quick, we moved from registration to self-assessment and then awarded within six months. What has to be remembered is that Deptherapy is a totally volunteer led organisation - we have no employees, we have volunteers who help with scuba diving instruction. So designing policy and procedures, sorting our governance and assessing risk all fell to the trustees and the associate directors on the board. The challenge actually brought the board together, particularly as assessment approached.

Completing the online assessment was hard work and making sure you used the best examples of documentation in each assessment area was essential. Submitting the online assessment is a difficult time. The thought, “have we done enough?!” is a worry but…once the external assessment has taken place and you receive your final report from the assessor and read the words that you have been recommended for the Trusted Charity Mark - the partying begins!

In your opinion, what is the importance of the Trusted Charity quality standard for the sector?

We know that trust in charities has fallen and there have been several ‘bogus’ charities who have capitalised on donations for veterans and serving personnel. My belief is we have to be ‘squeaky’ clean within the sector. The Cobseo Governance Checklist takes sector charities a good deal of the way to showing that they are well governed and led but the NCVO Trusted Charity Mark is an in depth, ‘no hold’ bars assessment of how you work as a charity and looks at the charities integrity and ethics.

Showing to the outside world that you can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best is essential, especially so for small charities.

Are there any practical tips you would give to another organisation hoping to achieve the Trusted Charity Mark?

    • Go along to one of the NCVO’s Trusted Charity Mark briefing sessions. If you are new to developing high class policies and procedures then take advice. If you do not have anyone who is equipped to write policies and procedures then look on the web, you can find many first class examples or ask another charity who you respect if you can have sight of their policies.
    • Be committed to seeing the process through or else you will find excuses to give up. If you get to that stage, seek support from NCVO.
    • It is hard work so you and your team need to be prepared to put the work in.
    • Read the eleven assessment areas and ask what are they looking for here? The assessment areas provide a book like insight into your charity and one assessment area flows into the next.
    • Avoid repetition, refer back to answers or documents in previous assessment areas and keep track of what you are doing.

For Deptherapy, we would say commit to it and just do it!


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