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City Philanthropy

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Being a Treasured Charity Treasurer

May 10th 2018

The newly published Honorary Treasurers Handbook offers essential advice, information and support for Charity Treasurers in all aspects of their role, including the crucial ‘softer’ aspects of the role. Here  Honorary Treasurers Forum CEO and handbook editor Denise Fellows offers some valuable advice on taking up the role of honorary treasurer.

There is a great joy in being able to use professional qualifications and knowledge to the benefit of a cause which is close to your heart.  Yet anecdotal evidence and the number of vacancies on recruitment sites indicate the dearth of applicants for the role of charity treasurer.  Many suitably qualified people baulk at the thought of taking on the role, perhaps thinking that it will be too much like the day job or leaving them potentially liable for any mistakes.  If you are one of the uncertain, then here are some simple tips to build confidence:

A little due diligence

Don’t leap at the first opportunity but think about what sort of charity: large or small and the type of work, to which you would like to give your time.  You may have been approached directly or you may be looking at opportunities advertised.  Undertake a little due diligence. 

  • ·         Download the Annual Accounts from the Charity Commission website 
  • ·         Ask for a copy of the governing document and previous board papers
  • ·         Meet other trustees and, if appropriate, members of staff
  • ·         Are you comfortable that the charity is governed well and that you can get on with fellow trustees
  • ·         Have you a realistic idea of the time the role will entail.

Work collegiately

It comes as a surprise to many trustees that their treasurer isn’t flattered (well only a little bit!) if they rely completely on the treasurer for all things financial.  Excellent treasurers understand the need to enable their fellow trustees to be able to participate in financial discussions.  Be prepared to: 

  • ·         Ensure all trustees understand the terminology, such as ‘designated’ or ‘restricted’ funds. Help with training and giving confidence
  • ·         Ensure the management accounts are presented so that trustees have the information to be able to make decisions.  Explain areas where there are exceptions which require discussion
  • ·         Encourage discussion and comment -  all trustees are equally responsible for the finances 

But is it enjoyable?

Recent research “Taken on Trust”, which surveyed trustees awareness of their responsibilities, found that treasurers were more committed to their role than other trustees.  It can be challenging but it provides a great sense of purpose. Along with the Chair, the treasurer is one of the two ‘officer’ roles specified by the Charity Commission in their guide for trustees (CC3).  The guidance talks about the responsibilities but doesn’t detail the softer skills needed to work with other trustees at board level.  It is the development of this side of the role which can be so enjoyable and can stretch the competences of younger professionals.  Great CPD which can benefit the CV!   

For more information do download the Honorary Treasurers Handbook, it covers much of the softer skills and competencies.  Hopefully you will be encouraged to become a treasured treasurer.  

Denise Fellows is chief executive of The Honorary Treasurers Forum.  She is a Senior Visiting Fellow at Cass CCE and has authored and edited several books including the Honorary Treasurers Handbook and Bridging the Gap: moving onto nonprofit boards.. Amongst many voluntary roles, Denise is a founder liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants and Treasurer of their charitable fund.

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