Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation

ACEVO inquiry into governance standards

A major inquiry into standards of governance in the sector has been launched by Acevo, the national body for chief executives in the voluntary sector. The inquiry will review how chief executives’ views on governance in the sector are evolving, and will aim to raise the overall level of board performance and ensure greater accountability.

Stephen Bubb, CEO of Acevo, said that the relationship between chair and chief executive is the lynchpin around which good boards operate but there was a “shameful apathy” in the sector around governance standards. “As the sector grows in strength and influence we need to review our governance and ensure it is fit for purpose. Calls for more professionalism in governance are often met with a ‘no change needed’ response, or a complacent defence of the status quo. We want to uncover the problems, learn from the best, and put this issue at the top of CEO’s agendas.” In 2003, Acevo published the research study, Rethinking Governance, which revealed that most boards lacked key skills and a commitment to improving their own performance. More recent Acevo research showed disappointing progress since. It found that only 27 per cent of boards have instituted appraisal processes, and that 81 per cent of large charities now rely on word-of-mouth to find new talent, compared to 68 per cent in a Charity Commission survey in 2002. Interestingly, this contrasts with findings in the Baker Tilly Governance Survey, published in Charity Finance magazine recently, which found that while 65 per cent of charities still relied on word of mouth to recruit trustees, this was down on 2003’s figure of 92 per cent. It also found that over 40 per cent of the largest charities were using some form of external advertising to recruit new board members.

The Acevo inquiry will examine whether approaches to governance and procedures are sufficiently robust; analyse the extent to which sector initiatives such as the Code of Governance have proved effective to date in helping chief executives; discuss whether the current regulatory framework is helping or hindering third sector organisations in improving their governance; and identify drivers and initiatives that will support CEOs in reforming the areas of governance where there has been limited or no progress.
The findings of the inquiry will be published at the Acevo annual conference in November.
(from: Charity News Alert 13-02-07)