What is the Charity Commission for England and Wales? An introductory guide

31st October 2023

The Charity Commission is the regulator of charities in England and Wales, and responsible for keeping the charity register accurate and up-to-date. The Commission’s purpose is to “ensure charity can thrive and inspire trust so that people can improve lives and strengthen society”. The Commission achieves its purpose through its five strategic objectives:

  1. Holding charities to account
  2. Dealing with wrongdoing and harm
  3. Informing public choice
  4. Giving charities the understanding and tools they need to succeed
  5. Keeping charity relevant for today’s world.

The Commission’s key responsibilities are:

The role of trustees

The charity’s governing document, the document which sets out the charity’s rules such as a constitution, trust deed or articles of association, will confirm who has ultimate responsibility for managing the charity. Those with ultimate authority are more commonly known as the charity trustees.

Being a ‘charity trustee’ is undoubtedly a rewarding experience, but comes hand-in-hand with a great deal of trust and responsibility. Every charity trustee is expected to comply with their legal duties and take their role seriously, and should therefore ensure that they are familiar with the key duties of a trustee. The Charity Commission’s guidance, The essential trustee: what you need to know, what you need to do (CC3), ensures trustees protect themselves against the risk of being considered responsible for misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of their charity.

What is Trustees’ Week?

As of 25 October 2023, there are 169,380 registered charities in England and Wales, as recorded by the Charity Commission. In order to operate, charities rely on the enthusiasm, passion and talents of their trustees. Trustees’ Week is a celebration of the achievements and dedication of nearly one million trustees across the UK who selflessly offer their services and help such charities thrive. As a firm HCR Hewitsons takes the opportunity presented by Trustees’ Week to celebrate the amazing work of our clients and provide free events for them to join.

Test your knowledge

As part of the Commission’s multi-faceted role in supporting charities, it aims to educate charity trustees, with the overall objective of improving a charity’s governance.

The regulator has published bite-size guidance in the form of 5-minute guides to highlight the essential responsibilities of a trustee and provide the necessary support and information. The guides cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Delivering purpose
  • Managing conflicts of interest
  • Reporting information
  • Safeguarding people
  • Making decisions
  • Making finances

Trustees are encouraged to test their knowledge by taking the Trustee Quiz. We challenge you to try it! The Commission’s research reveals that approximately 98% of trustees feel ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ confident in managing or governing their charity yet, when put to the test, trustees only score an average of 70% when quizzed on the basic requirements of a trustee’s role.

There is no shame in seeking help to develop your skills and knowledge as a trustee, as the Commission acknowledges that trustees’ time, skills and knowledge are most often offered free of charge, and honest mistakes are inevitable. However, as part of complying with your legal duty, a trustee should always act in the charity’s best interests, which can be achieved by improving your knowledge, understanding and skills.

Why not spend 5 minutes testing, and identifying any gaps in, your knowledge?

Act now, act responsibly and always act in the best interests of your charity.

For other events taking place during Trustees’ Week, please visit here.