With many charities holding AGMs and welcoming new board or committee members, our September webinar looked at how to properly induct new Responsible People, as well as emphasising the vital role they have in a charity's governance.
The webinar provided practical guidance and tips for successful charity induction programs, and examined ACNC Governance Standard 5 - the Standard which establishes the key duties for Responsible People.
Chris Riches: Hello everyone, welcome to today’s webinar. Today, we are going to be looking in a bit of detail at how charities can properly induct new Responsible People, who may, for example, they might have come on board after a recent annual general meeting, you might be having an annual general meeting in the next little bit, and expecting some new RPs to come on board. We’re also going to be looking at some of the key responsibilities that Responsible People have, obviously going through some of the requirements set out in ACNC’s Governance Standard 5. Now, my name’s Chris Riches. I’m from the ACNC’s education team, joining me today is Jacob Wood from the ACNC’s compliance team. Jacob, how are you?
Jacob Wood: Hi everyone, I’m excited to chat about inductions.
Chris: Wonderful, wonderful. All right, we won’t hold up the excitement. I’ll get through some very quick housekeeping points and we’ll launch right in. As always, if you’ve got troubles with the audio for the webinar, you can try having a listen through your phone. That means call the number listed in the email you’ll have received when you signed up. Put in the access code and listen to the webinar that way. We do have the ability to answer some questions asked through the Go To Webinar interface. You can ask a question at any time through the webinar by typing them in, and we’ve got Matt and Michael with busy fingers, able to respond. We’ll try to answer all the questions that come through. If your question isn’t answered, please feel free to send us an email afterwards, firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back in touch with you.
We’re recording this webinar, as always, so the recording and the presentation will be published on the ACNC website pretty quickly. We will send out an email with website links featured in this webinar as a follow up too, so don’t worry about having to scribble a whole heap of website links down as we go. Links, we mentioned today were included in the handout that’s attached to the Go To Webinar interface as well, so you can refer to that too.
Last thing we, as always, we value feedback. So any suggestions for ways that we can improve our webinars, please let us know via the survey at the end of proceedings. So there’s the bits and pieces done. What we’ll now do is we’ll launch into things. Beautiful.
What’s on the agenda? We’re going to start by discussing what a Responsible Person is, obviously, before detailing Responsible People’s obligations as part of ACNC Governance Standard 5. Now, Governance Standard 5 I guess deals very specifically with what Responsible People have to do, the duties they have in their position with the charity. We’ll look at detail of how charities can ensure that new Responsible People are welcomed, they’re feeling comfortable, they know what they’re responsible for. That obviously comes through good induction programs. So we’re going to examine what aims perhaps a good charity induction program should have, learning about four elements. Foundation stone, guidebook, launching pad, and team builder, as well as what an induction program should cover, and also what existing skills and abilities Responsible People might have, that charities can I guess build on through their induction program. So, what is a Responsible Person? Jacob, what is a Responsible Person?
Jacob: Thanks Chris. Simply put, a Responsible Person is someone who is responsible for the overall direction of the charity. So what that means is someone who’s on the governing board of a charity, whether that might be the board, the committee, trustees, board of directors, we’ve all got different names, but the person who sits on that governing body.
Chris: Now, we’ve seen some charities, and some I guess smaller charities in particular, that include all their members as Responsible People. Now, just a bit of a reminder here. Some might assume that if a member of a charity attends a board or a committee meeting, they’re a Responsible Person. That’s not the case. So in highlighting this, we’re also underscoring the importance of I guess a charity having some clarity on what a Responsible Person is, and isn’t, and Responsible People themselves having clarity that they are actually Responsible People, if you get what I mean. It’s a big meta, but if you get what I mean. So have some clarity on that, and ensure that both the Responsible People and the charity have clarity on that as well. Now, Jacob, Responsible People, they’ve got some duties and some responsibilities, haven’t they?
Jacob: Yes, and that’s why I guess it’s important to know who the Responsible People are. So Responsible People have duties and responsibilities that they have to fulfil as part of their role. Those duties involve making sure that the charity is run properly and in line with the ACNC Governance Standards. Many of you will be pretty familiar with the Governance Standards. As a recap, they are core minimum standards that deal with how a charity is run, and touches on things like processes, activities and relationships.
Chris: Yeah, now obviously there’s a link on our website too, to Governance Standards. That’s ACNC.gov.au/governancestandards so if you want to go and check that out, there are six of them. And that web page will give you some more information on them. Generally speaking, the standards, they require a charity to remain charitable, to operate lawfully and to be run in a way that’s accountable and responsible. And they aim to I guess help maintain public trust and confidence in charities, and they also aim to help charities do their work properly as well. Now, it’s Governance Standard 5 as we’ve already hit on, that is particularly relevant to today’s session, because it spells out the duties that Responsible People have when running a charity.
Now, what does Governance Standard 5 cover? There are a number of things, first one here, the Responsible People to act with reasonable care and diligence. So that makes clear the expectation that Responsible People know and stay updated on what is happening within their organisation, that they understand and stay informed about the charity’s activities, their work, the finances, those sorts of things. This means that Responsible People, they attend meetings when required, they seek out more information or expertise about things that they might not understand. One thing in particular may be for example, finances. They endeavour to remain informed and make informed decisions that are in the best interests of the charity.
Jacob: Absolutely, and the second duty that Responsible People have when running a charity is to act honestly and fairly, and in the best interests of the charity, and for its charitable purposes. This means that Responsible People must act honestly and fairly and place their charity first. So the interests of the charity really have to be paramount in decision making. Responsible People have a responsibility to put the interests of the charity above their own personal interests when they’re acting in their role within the charity. We like to think of this as, I guess, putting a charity hat on when you’re in that role within the charity. And finally, making sure that the charity continues to work towards its charitable purposes. Basically, what it was set up to achieve, or its mission.
Chris: Yeah, and that bit about the charity hat, having your charity hat on is very important. It’s a good sort of almost visual tool to keep in mind when you’re serving as a Responsible Person. The next little bit of Governance Standard 5, the next duty is that Responsible People do not misuse their position or information they may have gained in their role as a Responsible Person. Now, we mentioned charity hat. Again, you’ve got to have your charity hat on here. Responsible People mustn’t, for example, they can’t take information that they’ve maybe received in their role as a charity Responsible Person and then use it for personal gain, professional gain, others personal or professional gain, or even misuse it in other ways that might be detrimental to the charity itself.
The next standard is conflicts of interest. Now, conflicts of interest must be addressed. That means they have to be identified and they have to be properly disclosed, and this is key. A conflict of interest is where a person’s own interest may be in conflict with the interests of the charity where they serve as a Responsible Person. Now, importantly, it’s not for the Responsible Person themselves to judge whether something is actually a conflict of interest. We often talk about the reasonable person test, or the independent observer test, as we’ve written it here. And generally speaking, if an independent observer looked at a situation and thought that maybe a Responsible Person’s decision or decisions in their role in the charity were being perhaps influenced by their person interests or other interests, it might be an indication that they have a conflict of interest. Now, it’s important to remember here that even the perception that there is a conflict of interest needs to be managed, needs to be addressed.
Jacob: So how do we manage those conflicts of interest? I guess the first step is for the Responsible Person to identify any situation that might be a conflict of interest, where there is an actual conflict of interest, or a potential or perceived one, and then put it on the record to ensure transparency within the charity. To help with this, a conflict of interest register is essential. That register is where conflicts are listed openly and it allows Responsible People to declare conflicts and have open and honest conversations about them. Depending on your specific charity’s decision making processes, a person with a conflict of interest may not be able to participate in any discussion leading up to the decision in addition to the actual decision making process itself. Fortunately we’ve got plenty of resource on the ACNC website about conflicts of interest and registers. There’s a full guide to managing conflicts of interests at acnc.gov.au/conflicts of interest that you can take a look at, and in a previous webinar in March of this year, we actually covered off on conflicts of interest and related party transactions in detail. That’s available on the website as well.
Chris: And that March webinar really was a bit of a deep dive into the issue, and any sort of questions or any issues or queries that your charity might have with that, that’s a pretty hand resource to have handy, so that you can access it and refer to it when you need to.
Now, the next duty that Governance Standard 5 spells out is that Responsible People need to ensure that the charity’s financial affairs are managed responsibly. Now the minimum for this for example, is for Responsible People to read financial statements, and to have a process to ask questions if they don’t understand elements of them. We’ve touched on the idea of responsibly looking at the charity’s affairs and that involves having a curious mind, looking at things with a critical eye, asking questions maybe if something is unfamiliar, or if a transaction or a process is something that they perhaps don’t understand from a financial perspective, or they’re looking at it and thinking hold on, what’s this about? Ask the questions and that’s an important thing. In addition, Responsible People should also know or be familiar with the financial controls that a charity has, and also if the charity’s antifraud measures and those sorts of things, to be familiar with them, to know what they are, to know I guess the processes that are involved there, that’s and important thing for Responsible People to know as well.
Jacob: And the final duty covered in Governance Standard 5 is to not allow the charity to operate while insolvent. This one is pretty self explanatory. What it requires is that if a Responsible Person reasonable suspects that the charity cannot pay all of its debts when they become due, meaning that it’s facing insolvency, then they should take all reasonable steps to prevent the charity from taking on more debt, and they should take steps to manage the situation. Again, we have a short guide to insolvency that can help identify the danger signs and know the steps to take if you are facing insolvency.
Chris: Definitely, and that’s an acnc.gov.au/insolvency and that will be one of the links that will be included in our follow up email and also in the handout that we have here. While we’re on links and resources, there’s a couple more there. Again, these will be included in our follow up as well, but just a very quick rundown, handy rundown on the duties of Responsible People with specific reference to Governance Standard 5 and a number of other things that we’ve just chatted about. There’s the link there. We have a template letter of appointment for Responsible People that outlines those duties, and if you go to our templates and if you look at the template Letter of Appointment for Responsible Persons, that’s what we’re referring to here.
Final one, we’ve got a self-evaluation for charities available at that link there. It’s a pretty useful reference point to help charities assess if they’re meeting their obligations and also to identify any issues that might prevent them from doing so. Part 5 of this self-evaluation is really useful when it comes to looking at the duties of Responsible People, and it can almost be used in some points as a bit of a basis for parts of a position description that your charity might want to develop or think of drafting out for Responsible People. Or it can be also useful just as a bit of a check up or a refresher on what some of these duties are. So a number of resources there. Get onto the website and ensure that you’re familiar with them and you can grab them if required.
Jacob: Absolutely. So we’ve spoken about Governance Standard 5, which should form a key component of your induction efforts within the charity for Responsible People. Of course it’s not the only requirement, so there’s a lot more to a good induction and welcome for new Responsible People than just pointing out the governance standards and pointing them in the general direction and saying you need to follow those rules. From a charity perspective what function does an induction program serve, and what overarching aims should a good induction program have?
Chris: Yeah, absolutely, just point someone in the general direction of Governance Standard 5 as you said Jacob, that’s just not going to do the whole job. That’s not right at all. What we’re going to do here as we go through this section, we’re going to answer this question about, as the previous slide said, the functions of a charity induction and the aims that a good charity induction should have. We’re going to look at addressing this question by considering four different aims or perspectives. Now, being able to tick these perspectives off, and aims off, that will most likely go a bit of a ways towards your charity’s induction program hitting the target, as we can see by the visual here and doing a good job. Now, the first way of hitting the target is to think about an induction and seeing it as a vital foundation stone for Responsible People. Something that forms a very reliable grounding foundation stone on which they can build their role as a Responsible Person. Building on solid ground, a solid base.
Jacob: And in addition to that foundation stone, inductions also provide a guidebook to the Responsible Person’s ongoing role at the charity. So that includes the duties they have and also the responsibilities they will assume. And when we say responsibilities, they’ll go beyond those just mentioned in Governance Standard 5. Inductions are a good launching pad too. So your charity wants their Responsible People to be on their feet, ready to launch and functioning well as quickly as possible in their role. So really looking to help them hit the ground running.
Chris: Definitely. And finally, inductions are team builders as well. They should build a sense of team, and a welcoming team as well. They should aim to increase new Responsible People’s confidence and make them feel part of the group. Be it a part of the group as a charity as a whole, or as part of the board or committee. So keep that one in mind as well. So foundation stone, guidebook, launching pad, team builder. A good induction program needs to take a bit from each of these aims or perspectives. So keeping these things in mind, these four aims or perspectives in mind, what specific features should be included in a charity’s induction program. Jacob, do you want to kick us off?
Jacob: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s worth clarifying who’s actually responsible for ensuring that Responsible People are inducted. If the charity is in a position of being able to have one person responsible for this, then that’s fantastic. I think for many charities that may not be the case and it may end up being a bit of a team effort to induct new Responsible People.
Chris: That’s definitely… oh sorry…
Jacob: …I believe we might have had a question on this point, yeah.
Chris: We have been asked just quickly, I thought we’d perhaps jump in on this one Jacob. The idea of who’s responsible, we’ve had someone mention the role of the Board Secretary at this point in being responsible for induction and look, I guess traditionally, if you can use the term traditionally, many organisations, be they charities, not for profits, even in the business sector, the board secretary has often been the person who has perhaps formally been tasked with getting the induction rolling, coordinating perhaps for others to stage.
Now, having this sort of central point of contact or coordinating point when it comes to inductions, it’s pretty important. But, how that central coordinating point looks for each charity might be different. Now, some charities are simply not going to have a board secretary, let’s be honest here. Others might have someone else who might not be a board secretary, might just be someone else, who does this job. As Jacob just mentioned, it might be a bit of a team effort, and it’s probably a more realistic situation for a number of charities out there. So don’t get wedded, I guess the first thing is, don’t get wedded to the idea that it has to be, say, a board secretary or someone in a specific position that looks after induction. What is really important is that the charity has someone, or someones, multiple people, who oversee this job, and that there’s a clear procedure about how this induction takes place and what is included. So that’s where the importance, I guess really lies. It’s not necessarily perhaps just a board secretary, it can be a group of people, it can be one individual, but it’s about the process and it’s about clarity as well. So sorry, that’s a bit of a diversion, we’ll wander back onto the screen here. Now, the welcoming letter, Jacob, what’s the go here?
Jacob: Yeah, so I guess the welcoming letter is a really good starting point if you’re looking to put together an induction program. And really it’s just a kind of cover letter stating clearly that the recipient is a Responsible Person of the charity, and welcoming them aboard. And it might be something as simple as thanks for joining the board of our charity, and then maybe detailing some of the necessary information such as contact details. Often, the welcome letter will be a covering letter that provides an introduction to a bigger welcome pack, helping your new Responsible Person. I will traditionally I’ve seen a lot of welcome packs be printed, but I think in the current climate it’s probably more likely to be electronic, or some kind of combination of them both, printed and electronic.
Chris: Yeah, and we’ll probably touch on that point again in the next couple of minutes. Obviously with current circumstances here having physical things may be a little bit more challenging, so be flexible in some of these ways. If you’ve got material, having electronic access to it might be the better option, as you’ve probably already been doing with a number of important charity bits and pieces over the last little while. Now, we’re talking welcome packs here, what should they contain? So first thing probably, basic charity documents. So that’s a copy of your charity’s governing document, or at least how to get access to it, because as we’ve just mentioned it might be a digital copy.
Now, the governing document is the constitution, rules or trustee of your organisation. It spells out what your charity does, spells out charitable purposes, it spells out your charity’s official name. So that’s important administrative detail. Key policies and procedures have to be part of a welcoming pack as well. Now, we’ve got some suggestions, I’ll run through some suggestions. Obviously each to their own in terms of each individual charity being a bit different.
So some suggestions might be I guess for a start, HR type policies, personnel policies, if there’s behavioural policies or procedures, they’re worth putting in. Conflict of interest policy, we emphasise that one, that’s probably well worth putting in as a key policy or procedure. A link to your charity’s interest register would be well worth putting in as well. Both of these are important. Any policies in relation to, I always have fun saying this, remuneration or reimbursement so there’s a bit of clarity there so people know what to expect and the processes that are in place there. Information about your charity’s regular meetings. Meetings that the new Responsible Person will be expected to attend. When are they held, where are they held, what are the processes, online, all of that sort of stuff. So that’s just a starting point. Obviously your charity might be a little bit different, might have some different points of emphasis that it wants to put forward. So, each to their own on that one. Now information covering Governance Standard 5 should be in the welcoming pack as well. The duties and the responsibilities that we’ve already I guess gone through and outlined today. What else do we bung into the welcoming pack, Jacob?
Jacob: So we can include what we call important charity documents. So that might include incorporation documents, strategic plans, mission and vision statements financial documents. We’d usually recommend including the most recent financial report, and if you have one, the most recent annual report as well. It’s important to include what we call access information so that is passwords and logins, and that might cover things like online banking, technology and platform passwords, of course the login to the ACNC charity portal. When doing this, you’ve really got to consider whether access is appropriate for that Responsible Person, so as an example, it might not be appropriate that every Responsible Person gets access to all accounts. Really you want to limit it to I guess Responsible People who actually need the information or access to that account. And finally, contact names and numbers for people around the charity. Basically a contact list or a who’s who, and that might be names, contacts, role within the charity, both for the Responsible People and the other Responsible Persons, but also maybe the CEO, accountant, some other key people.
Chris: Yeah, definitely, beyond Responsible People that’s definitely right. What else have we got?
Jacob: Yeah, I think you could include instructions or step by step explanations on important charity tasks relevant to that Responsible Person. This will obviously be different for each charity, but should almost be a bit of a guidebook on how certain things are done. And also, somethings worth thinking about right now is a list of some of the things your charity is currently doing online, remotely or virtually. So whether that’s meetings, virtual site visits, catch ups, inductions. Basically an update on how your charity has adapted to the last year and a bit, so that they’re getting the current details on how your charity runs.
Chris: Yeah, and that’s important because obviously there are a whole heap of charities and other organisations that have changed the way that they do a lot of things by necessity and to ensure that when the new Responsible Person come on board, they’re up to date with how those things are done, is absolutely vital. Now, something here too that’s not on this slide but is probably worth mentioning, is that it might be worth just mentioning as part of a bit of a welcoming pack, if there are any other regulators or any other requirements that a Responsible Person might need to be aware of that might need to be in play here, for example fair trading bodies at state level that might cover things like fundraising, or other regulators at perhaps a federal level, depending on the structure of your charity or the type of charity it is. Doesn’t have to be huge amounts of information at this stage. Even if it’s just a mention that there’s other regulators in this space that might have a little bit of an overseeing role of some elements of what you do as a charity.
Now, we’ve got information on the ACNC website too, under our other regulators page if you go and have a look. That will give a bit of a rundown generally speaking of a number of the other regulators that have a bit of influence in the charity space, and that you may have to have I guess some contact with or you may have some duties to fulfil with. So just to give that a mention, just to ensure that your new Responsible People are aware of it. Now, it’s probably a good idea to not muck around when you’re distributing the welcome pack.
Once someone comes on board, they should get this information pretty quicky, timely manner. That way they can dive in, they can hit the ground running and they can build on that base. They can be the rocket coming off the launching pad. Once your charity has got this pack established, the other important thing is to keep it up to date. Things change, we know that. Key charity information, it might be policies, plans, passwords, logins, now that’s an important one. Nothing worse than not knowing what a login is. Other important documents and information, these things change.
So ensure that the changes and the updates are reflected in your induction or welcoming pack. There’s nothing worse than coming on board as a Responsible Person, getting provided with information and it’s outdated or it’s not correct. That’s not making someone feel part of the team and feel welcome. And it’s such an easy thing to remedy as well. It’s a poor reflection of a charity as a whole too, if you don’t keep this sort of thing up to date, and it can create a risk if, for example, any Responsible Person acts on outdated or incorrect information that your charity has provided, so we can’t stress the importance of keeping this material up to date and we can’t stress the importance of ensuring that the welcoming pack covers this type of material that we’ve just covered here. That means it’s sort of covered and gone through the four aims or perspectives that we’ve talked about, that of foundation stone and guidebook, and launching pad and team build up.
Jacob: Excellent. So we’ve covered the welcome pack, but it’s also important to arrange time for an in person meeting for new Responsible People. Of course, in person welcomes might not be possible in some parts of Australia right now, so if Plan B means that these things are happening by a virtual means, then make sure that you’re setting time aside for those virtual catch ups. Normally Responsible People taking on a certain role on a board might shadow someone already in that role as part of a handover process. That might mean following them around for a day, or half a day, to learn what the role entails and how certain tasks are undertaken and completed. This gives new Responsible People a direct one on one kind of opportunity for guidance and also gives them a chance to ask questions and witness first hand the duties and responsibilities that go with the role.
Chris: Yeah. Now if this process can’t be done in person right now, and in many parts at the moment, it can’t, there are other alternatives. It can be taken online, there can be a bit of a virtual discussion, there can be a virtual run through of roles or responsibilities, that type of thing. And by the way too, when we’re talking about this sort of thing, have a bit of a think and maybe consider a bit of an online group sort of catch up as a welcome as well. Now, we’re probably a little bit over the whole online meeting thing at the moment, and that’s quite understandable. But when they’re used well, and when they’re used for a useful purpose, they can be a great tool. If that’s the tool that you have to use, then do consider using it and obviously when situations change, we can catch up in person again, good opportunity to do that as well. So try and work it so it’s perhaps the best of both worlds on that one.
Your in-person welcomes also, I guess they need to make sure that they emphasise points of contact, they make clear to the new Responsible Person that there’s contacts and points of contact and people that are available to help them with their duties and their responsibilities and that there’s support there for them. The whole idea of being part of a team. That might be the person that they’re directly shadowing or working with, it might be other people or it might be a combination of the above. The main thing here, be it done in person or virtually is to ensure that the knowledge that a new Responsible Person needs from a specific person or about a specific role, is transferred across to them. That way the role and those specific responsibilities and expectations, they’re all made clear early on. The information and guidance about the specific role the Responsible Person would be performing is all at hand and it’s all ready to use and the Responsible Person has it.
Jacob: Absolutely. Finally it’s worth noting that any specific information delivered through induction processes about a role a Responsible Person has with you, should aim to build on any pre-existing skills and knowledge that that Responsible Person might have. Some examples of pre-existing skills might include things like interpersonal and other skills, so if we think working cooperatively, being part of team efforts, being able to discuss and debate items and issues at meetings. The pre-existing skills might include comprehension skills that help with informed decision making. So that’s the ability to digest what might be a lot of information, whether it’s written or verbal and then actually make a decision based on that information. The skills might include a basic awareness of risk management particularly around areas like financial, personnel and occupational health and safety. And it might include working knowledge on how an organisation operates. So things like structures, responsibilities as well as some of the legal or regulatory frameworks that the charity operates within.
Chris: Yeah, and again those structures and frameworks may go beyond the ACNC as well, as we mentioned earlier on. There may be other regulators or other organisations in the space that you need to be aware of as well, so that’s perhaps where that sort of information gets built on, I suppose. We’ve got a combo here. If you’ve got solid pre-existing skills, and if they’re backed by a decent amount of common sense and they’re built on by a great induction, you should end up with a Responsible Person who’s ready to contribute, and contribute in a positive way to your charity and make a real difference.
And as we’ve mentioned before, the idea of a great induction, again, built around those four things. The foundation stone, the launching pad, the guidebook and the team builder. That’s pretty much the combo there, the equation, and the guy is getting thrown up in the air and everyone is happy and celebrating. A few tips to take away, just quickly, we’ve got a couple here. The first one is that as we emphasised, Governance Standard 5 really does need to be a key part of induction efforts that your charity has. Governance Standard 5 is the key ACNC standard when it comes to outlining our expectations for the duties of Responsible People. Its requirements need to be clearly spelled out to the Responsible People as part of the process of welcoming them on board. Also, be clear whose responsibility it is at your charity to induct or welcome new Responsible People. We mentioned board secretary, again we don’t have to have that sort of formal role that’s defined, it can be someone who your charity knows does it and is able to do it. It might be more than one person. So as long as it’s clear who that person or people are, that’s important. So be clear on that, ensure that you’re clear on who is responsible for the induction.
Jacob: A reminder on what we described earlier as the four aims or perspectives for a successful induction program, and that was the foundation stone should act as a guidebook, a launching pad and as a team builder. So keep those four things in mind and remember that a good induction program should aspire to aim for each. Importantly, as we’ve mentioned, keep your information in your induction and welcome pack up to date. You can’t properly induct new Responsible People without information, sorry with information that’s incorrect or past its use by date. Whoever is in charge of the induction, whether it be one person or a team effort, really keep tabs on any changes to the material within the induction program. It might be something as simple as if a login changes, but it could also include things like updated policies or key information. But the important thing is to keep the welcome pack and letter updated so that new Responsible People are kept updated.
Chris: Yeah, definitely. Now we also emphasise the in person welcomes can often be an important part of the process as well. Now, again, might be challenging to do this right now, given the circumstances. Charities should seek out alternatives if and when they’re needed, virtual catch ups that might be held online for example. Make sure they’re relevant, make sure that they effectively convey any information that needs to be passed on from a specific person or about a specific role. That’s vital.
Last one, remember the combo that we talked about a couple of slides ago. A Responsible Person’s pre-existing skills and their common sense, when it’s built on by an induction process, that leads to that Responsible Person feeling included, feeling established, and ready to contribute meaningfully and to make a real difference as well. So remember that combo.
Now, we, with 20 minutes to go, have reached some semblance of the end of our formal presentation here. Just a reminder again that we’re recording this webinar, so the slides with links, other information, they’ll be up on the website in the next day or two and there’ll be links to all of this information in an email that we’ll send out to those who have registered. That will also contain other useful links to the ACNC site, and other bits and pieces. So please keep an eye out for that in your email inboxes.
We have gotten a couple of questions as we’ve proceeded today, and also had a couple asked before things as well. One in particular was, and this is a common one as well. How do we, as a charity, get people to engage with finance reports and not just assume that the treasurer is responsible for everything? Now, that’s an important one. This is a good question, it’s quite a common issue too, because charity finances, like lots of finances, can be quite complex. And they might involve some bits and pieces that you’re not 100% assured of. So the simple answer here is that being engaged and asking questions, and not assuming something is someone else’s responsibility, this is an absolute key part of being a Responsible Person. So as we sort of said earlier, curiosity, enquiring mind, those sorts of things. Asking questions and not making assumptions, that ensures that the Responsible People are doing the job outlined in Governance Standard 5. Now, on a deeper level, financial reports, they can be seen as a bit daunting, a bit specialist, or dare I say it, even sometimes a little bit boring. The key then I guess becomes how a charity through its meetings and through its updates and through what it does, where financial reports are put forward, ensures that there’s ample opportunity for understanding and ample opportunity for Responsible People to be included.
Now, plain language explanation of concepts is one way. Wide open opportunities for Responsible People to ask questions, and not just in meetings here, but all the time. This is important. Some Responsible People, new ones jumping on board, even ones who might be a bit established, they might not feel all that confident sometimes asking questions, particularly if perhaps they have a feeling that the question might be perceived to be a, you know, “dumb one” and they don’t want to ask a dumb question in front of others or in a group setting. So make the finances engaging, make the financial reports relatable and easy to understand and emphasise that questions are welcome and that what actually might seem to be a dumb question on the surface, in fact might not be a dumb question, it might be a very, very good question.
So, it’s a little bit in the charity’s court to ensure that the whole environment around financial reports isn’t on where Responsible People feel either over awed or feel like they can push the responsibility to the treasurer, because they’re the “financial expert”. That’s not how it should be done. Have an environment where the Responsible Person feels like they can ask questions, they can be involved and that they, through explanations of concepts and that sort of thing, can understand stuff. It’s important the charity makes things accessible and engaging and it’s also important that in turn the charity and its Responsible People ensure that new Responsible People are also engaged as well.
So that’s one, I guess, key question that we have received, and we often receive it quite a bit, about engaging non-financial specialists in the finances. So it’s a bit of both ways on that one.
I’m just having a bit of a gawk at the clock. What we might do, we might give everyone a bit of an early mark today, it’s about quarter to one o’clock here in Melbourne, but we’ll perhaps give everyone an early mark today and allow you to go and have lunch or morning tea, depending on where you are.