UHY Ross Brooke Chartered Accountants

What charity trustees should learn from the Cat Survival Trust

charity trustee legal obligations

In recent news, a registered wild cat conservation charity, The Cat Survival Trust, is under investigation by the Charity Commission for continuously failing to file financial accounts. This unfortunate situation highlights the importance of trustees of charities understanding their role and legal obligations in order to ensure effective governance and compliance.

By Kerry Hawkins

Trustees play a crucial role in the administration, governance, and management of a charity. They are responsible for making key decisions, ensuring the organisation operates in line with its charitable objects, and safeguarding its assets. Trustees are expected to act in the best interest of the charity and the public it serves.

One of the primary legal obligations of trustees is to submit annual reports and accounts to the Charity Commission. This requirement ensures transparency and accountability, allowing the regulator and the public to assess the financial health of the organisation. By failing to fulfil this obligation, The Cat Survival Trust has raised red flags and prompted an investigation.

Understanding their legal duties is paramount for trustees. They must familiarise themselves with the specific reporting requirements, deadlines, and guidelines set by the relevant authorities. By doing so, trustees can avoid any unintended non-compliance and help maintain the trust and confidence of stakeholders.

In the case of The Cat Survival Trust, the trustees’ continuous disregard for filing financial information has led to serious consequences. Not only does it impede the public’s ability to assess the organisation’s operations, but it also raises concerns regarding potential misconduct and mismanagement.

Trustees must comprehend the impact their actions, or lack thereof, can have on their organisation’s reputation and the sector as a whole. Failure to comply with legal obligations can result in reputational damage, loss of public trust, and regulatory scrutiny. This can lead to the imposition of penalties, intervention by the Charity Commission, or even the closure of the charity.

It is essential for trustees to actively engage in education and training forums that provide guidance on their legal responsibilities. They should stay updated on changes in legislation and governance practices to ensure they are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to fulfil their duties effectively.

Additionally, trustees should establish robust systems and processes within their charity for financial management, reporting, and compliance. This includes appointing a responsible financial officer, implementing clear procedures for record-keeping, and conducting regular internal audits to identify any discrepancies or areas of improvement.

By understanding their role and legal obligations, trustees can contribute to the long-term sustainability and success of their charities. They can demonstrate their commitment to transparency, accountability, and good governance, instilling confidence in donors, beneficiaries, and the wider community.

The case of The Cat Survival Trust serves as a reminder that trustees must be diligent in their responsibilities. Upholding their legal duties is crucial for ensuring the effective functioning of charities, maintaining public trust, and achieving their charitable objects for the benefit of society.

The inquiry by the Charity Commission into The Cat Survival Trust will shed light on the extent to which the trustees have complied with their legal obligations and managed the charity’s governance and administration. It will serve as a crucial learning opportunity for other trustees, highlighting the importance of understanding and fulfilling their roles to avoid similar circumstances.

Trustees must recognise that their role in a charity comes with important legal obligations. Understanding and fulfilling these obligations is crucial for ensuring effective governance, maintaining public trust, and achieving the organisation’s charitable objectives. The case of The Cat Survival Trust highlights the consequences of neglecting these responsibilities and emphasises the significance of trustees being fully aware of their role and legal duties.

If your charity needs practical accountancy support, audits, or financial and tax planning advice, please contact our Charity specialists.

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