International charity trustees ignore safeguarding risks

The trustees of international UK charities need to focus more on the risks associated with safeguarding and the impact of Brexit, which are being neglected in favour of a concentration on future funding and financial sustainability, according to research from Haysmacintyre

The firm’s international charity benchmarking report, which analyses the annual accounts of 189 UK charities with an international focus, found that only 8% disclosed safeguarding as one of their principal risks.

In contrast, 77% identified future funding and fundraising as a key challenge facing their charity. However, only 9% of organisations specifically mentioned Brexit as a principal risk, with only 25% stating security of staff as a concern.

Haysmacintyre said the failure to recognise safeguarding as a critical issue is a concern, given recent high profile cases such as the scandal impacting Oxfam GB’s work in Haiti. In that instance, a report by the Charity Commission found it appeared that Oxfam’s priority was to protect donor relations and avoid donor withdrawal rather than tackle claims of serious sexual misconduct.

Steve Harper, charities director at Haysmacintyre, said: ‘Our benchmarking report analysed the wide range of risks that boards of international UK charities are managing, and it’s surprising how few stated safeguarding as an issue. We would have expected more charities to prioritise this area.

‘Given the challenging funding climate faced by many charities, it makes sense that most identified income generation as a focus.  However, if charities fail to manage safeguarding effectively, they could harm their reputations and longer-term ability to fundraise.’

Harper pointed out that trustees have the legal responsibility for their organisation, meaning that it is essential they are aware of the principal risks and are confident that they are being managed appropriately.

‘Given the uncertainty over the UK’s plans to exit the EU, it is surprising how few international charities disclosed Brexit as a specific issue. It is vital that global charities consider and plan for the potential impact of changes to the political environment in all the countries they operate.

‘Many charities will have started to feel the impact of Brexit, and for those in receipt of EU grants, it’s important that they plan for risks to income streams and take proactive steps to mitigate against it,’ Harper said.

International Charity Financial Benchmarking Report 2018

Pat Sweet

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