Caroline Eade, head of charities at Edward Connor Solicitors, will be speaking at Above and Beyond in May - your one-stop shop for access to the leading experts in church and charity law.

Every charity faces governance challenges, and the legal and regulatory environment is not getting any easier to navigate. But for Christian organisations in particular, there are some things that it is especially important to have in place at the outset, and to keep an eye on as your charity develops.

Here are Caroline’s five top tips for setting out on the right track:

  1. Be clear about what your charitable purposes are and, if at all possible, link them to your Christian ethos. Aside from any legal protections this may give you, this will help to set expectations amongst the trustees about who you are and what you are about. If you do not have a shared sense of vision, it will be difficult to navigate detailed questions of strategy and decision-making.
  2. Make sure the right people are in the right roles. This sounds obvious but is in fact hard to do, particularly if you have challenges in recruiting trustees or staff. But God gives each person different gifts, and we all function best when we are using our gifts well for His glory – not when we have been shoe-horned into a role that we aren’t suited to.
  3. Keep coming back to how delegation and accountability are working, especially between the trustees on the one hand and the staff/​volunteer team on the other. As fellow-believers, we love each other well both by being clear about our expectations of each other and by demonstrating Christlike grace and truth in how we hold each other to account.
  4. Managing conflicts of interests isn’t just a legal tick-box exercise; it is a key part of acting with integrity and transparency, and in submission to the authorities that God has placed over us. If your trustees are paid, or have duplicate roles across inter-connected organisations, and/​or if they are related to each other, make sure you are managing those conflicts of loyalty appropriately. Keep your constitution up to date in this area to ensure the board’s decisions continue to be validly made.
  5. Your processes for overseeing the charity’s work will need to change and develop over time, so don’t assume that the model you adopted 10 years ago is still going to work for the next 10. There will be new risks and challenges to face, but also new opportunities to seize. Your role in stewarding the resources God has given you is to fulfil your charity’s purposes in the context in which he has placed you now.

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