Trustee's Week Scotland 2020 focuses on various aspects of governance both generally and specific areas. Interestingly, the word "governance" comes from the Latin verb "gubernare" or more originally from the Greek word "kubernaein" which means "to steer".

That analogy is ideal when we consider governance in a charity and voluntary sector context. The trustees strive to steer the organisation on a course to fulfil its charitable purposes, enjoying success on calm waters and staying afloat in troubled times and keeping clear of rocks. Unfortunately, from time to time trustees run onto dry ground. The analogy could of course go on and on….

Like a board, governance develops and changes with time. So, what might lie ahead in the future for governance? Perhaps ethics will feature more prominently.

NCVO Charity Ethical Principles

The Charity Ethical Principles were developed through 2018 by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations alongside advisory support from within the sector. These principals were published in January 2019 and are complementary to existing codes of practice, particularly the Charity Governance Code for England and Wales.

The principles set out a framework for the ethical execution of charitable purposes, regardless of a charity's size, type or area of operation. The intention is that the principles help charities in their decision making and in developing relevant policies and procedures. The principles are straight forward:-

  • Beneficiaries first

Charities have a responsibility to carry out their purposes for the public benefit. The interests of their beneficiaries and the causes they work for should be at the heart of what charities and those who work and volunteer in and with them do.

  • Integrity

Charities, and those who work and volunteer in and with them, should uphold the highest level of institutional integrity and personal conduct at all times.

  • Openness

Charities should create a culture and space where donors and supporters, as well as the wider public, can see and understand how they work, how they deal with the problems when they arise and how they spend their funds.

  • Right to be safe

Every person who volunteers with, works for or comes into contact with a charity should be treated with dignity and respect and feel that they are in a safe and supportive environment.

The Scottish Governance Code for the Third Sector – its future

The Scottish Governance Code for the Third Sector was published in November 2018 and this week celebrates its second birthday. It is a statement of best practice, developed by Scotland's Third Sector Governance Forum and now regularly forms a staple part of many trustee training sessions. It is also supplemented by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations' "Good Governance Checkup".

The Code itself already hints at some of the ethical principles stated in the NCVO principles. Learning through experience, it is likely that at some point in the future a review of the Code will take place. If "ethical principles" are to be highlighted in a Scottish context, then that would surely be the ideal place.