Trustees failed to manage guest speaker at charity event

08 December 16

The Charity Commission has recently published two reports in relation to its inquiries into Global Aid Trust Limited (registered charity number 1123560) and Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (UK) (registered charity number 267309). Both charities were featured in the programme 'Charities Behaving Badly'. The programme aired on ITV on Wednesday 18 February 2015 and raised serious concerns regarding the charities' trustees' management of a guest speaker at the charities' events. In both cases the speaker was recorded by an undercover journalist making comments that were considered to be inappropriate and unacceptable at an event run by a charity and raised concerns about the lack of trustee or professional oversight and management of the charities' events.

After obtaining and reviewing all the footage recorded by the makers of the programme, the Commission concluded that the trustees had failed in their duties to protect their respective charities and that there was mismanagement in the administration of the charities, including a failure to follow the charities' own policies and procedures on speakers participating at events and a lack of appropriate oversight and monitoring of employees, volunteers and external speakers at the charities' events.

Lessons for other charities

  • Charities that regularly host guest speakers must have appropriate policies and procedures in place to protect the charity and manage the associated risks of hosting guest speakers at events.
  • Where children and young people are in attendance, there must also be policies and procedures in place to safeguard young people.
  • Trustees should undertake appropriate background checks on potential guest speakers for charity events. More generally they should carefully consider the suitability of individuals or groups the charity will be closely associated with.
  • Charities must ensure that staff, volunteers and guest speakers are provided with appropriate job or role descriptions. This should include the rules and boundaries within which they must work, especially when representing or speaking on behalf of the charity. Staff and volunteers should also have appropriate training in relation to the charity's internal policies and procedures.
  • Trustees should ensure that material distributed by their charity, including speeches by guest speakers, is consistent with the charity's charitable objectives and complies with the law, including criminal, human rights and equality law.

In summary, trustees need to be vigilant, particularly if they regularly run events using guest speakers who may be deemed to be controversial.

The full case reports in relation to the two charities are available here and here.

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