Principle 5 - Being Open and Accountable

Openness

Developing a culture of openness in charities can be challenging because there are some things which are confidential and should be treated as such.  However committees should consider where the boundaries are and how they can communicate with people about their organisations.  The creation of the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has given the public more access than ever to information about charities.

Gifts and Hospitality

Organisations need to agree in advance whether or not it is acceptable for members of the management committee/board, staff or volunteers to receive gifts from services users, suppliers, customers or anyone else connected with the work of the organisation.

In general it may be allowable to receive a one off token gift but where something of more value or a regular gift it may be unacceptable. The key issue is to ensure this is agreed in advance and that everyone is clear about the rules, which are in place.

Integrity

Behaving with integrity as a management committee member is vital.  As a member of the committee you are a steward of the assets of the organisation and accountable for the activities of the organisation.  As part of your leadership role, you need to set a standard for conduct which can be mirrored throughout the organisation. Failure to act with integrity will have major, damaging implications for the reputation of the organisation you lead.

Equality and Good relations

This means in practice that the management committee needs to ensure that equal opportunities and diversity principles are applied in all areas of the organisations work.  The only variation to this principle may be where an organisation is set up to serve one particular section of the community e.g. women or young people.  In these contexts an approach based wholly on equal opportunities and diversity may not be possible.

Accountability

The Management Committee must be able to account for everything the organisation does. Even though your group or organisation may have paid staff and/or volunteers, the Management Committee is ultimately responsible and may be held liable for the consequences of actions taken or not taken.

However the Management Committee is not only required to be accountable, but to be able to demonstrate and communicate this to stakeholders by ensuring that appropriate systems and procedures are in place. By doing so, they reduce their risks of personal liability should things go wrong.

Complaints

Every organisation will make mistakes and may from time to time receive complaints about its work.  It is the board's responsibility to make sure that complaints are dealt with effectively and that the organisation takes time to learn from the feedback it receives.

A complaint is a voluntary expression of dissatisfaction with an organisation's policies, procedures, staff or quality of service, whether justified or not.  It may be made in person, by phone, by email, on audiotape, through the website, social media and in writing.

Stakeholder involvement

In order to be open, responsive and accountable, management committees need to actively engage with their organisation's stakeholders.   Entering into dialogue with stakeholders can bring a number of benefits to the management committee and the organisation: