The Code of Governance indicates that an effective board will maintain the independence of its decision making.
Independence of decision making is important for a board to ensure that it is complying with its governing document. The board must put the best interests of the organisation first in all its decision making and effectively manage conflicts of interest. You might also want to put in place guidance on accepting gifts and hospitality for trustees, staff and volunteers.
There are many challenges to the independence of decision-making including pressure from funders, government, stakeholders etc. This picture becomes more complex when organisations take on the responsibilities for delivering services through bidding for contracts and tenders. The Building Change Trust has undertaken some research on the independence of the voluntary sector in Northern Ireland. You can also download the Voluntary and Community Sector Independence Questionnaire.
Charities and Politics
There can be particular challenges for community and voluntary organisations in relation to the political arena. Charities cannot be set up for political purposes, however at times their advocacy and campaigning work can bring them into contact with politicians and this is acceptable where it furthers the objects of a charity. Charities must not endorse one particular party.
There is always a risk in engaging with politics for charities and they must follow the guidelines laid out by the Charity Commission in Charities and Politics and how organisations can manage the challenges for independence which may arise when their campaigning role enters the political arena and manage the risk effectively through the normal risk management procedures. This is especially important in the run up to elections. The Electoral Commission has also produced guidance on Charities and Campaigning.