Charity Masterclass Reveals Top Tips from Legal & Cyber Experts

Charities need to behave commercially if they are to grow membership figures and boost their coffers.

This was the resounding message from the 2019 Charity Masterclass, organised by Roythornes Solicitors in Lincolnshire earlier this year.

At the event, more than 70 charities heard from a range of speakers across a number of industries. The expert panel included Julia Seary from Roythornes, Liz Cartwright from Cartwright Communications, Paul Colcomb from Wright Vigar, John Hebblethwaite from jch: investment management, John Pennick from Berkeley Insurance Group and Steve Warren from the Star Trust.

Each specialist shared their top tips for ensuring charities are complying with the law, remain protected from cyber-attacks, look after funds in a responsible manner and also how to make the most of a marketing plan.

  1. Assess your level of risk and then monitor

Paul Colcomb, director at accountancy firm Wright Vigar, said: “It is important to know your organisation and operations, assess the risk and monitor that risk during external fluctuations such as a change in the political landscape (e.g. Brexit). I would then suggest drawing up a risk scoring grid to show the impact from one to five and apply to a heat map – this will help you plan.

“Once you have this document, ensure there is an appropriate action strategy should the level of risk change and continue to regularly review.”

  1. When it comes to investing your reserves, get the right advice

John Hebblethwaite, CEO at jch: investment management, said: “When you’re considering investing your reserves, particularly if you’re a charity trustee, you are acting as the custodian of the charitable monies and therefore have a duty of care. Consequently, it is vital to get the right advice.

“Establishing an investment programme to generate more funds is no easy task so seeking expert advice can be the difference between success and failure. Also make sure you review the investments on a regular basis and explain the investment policy in your trustees’ annual report.”

  1. Don’t underestimate the risk of cyber attacks

John Pennick, divisional director at Berkeley Insurance Group, said: “Everyone understands traditional risks such as fire or flooding and the benefit of protecting against these hazards but cyber security is actually a much more real and immediate threat.

“Your digital assets are becoming increasingly important – how long could your charity survive if you were locked out of your system or all your reserves were drained? Sometimes a seemingly innocuous situation can escalate very quickly, which is when your insurance providers steps in to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”

“Cyber security is an ongoing education process. Most breaches are down to human error with people being too trusting with their data and security. Ensure your staff, volunteers and anyone with access to the system are fully briefed.”

  1. Data protection is just as important for charities as it is for corporate businesses

Julia Seary, partner at Roythornes, said: “It’s been almost a year since GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) came into force and everyone seems to have breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t as bad as originally feared. However, the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) is not sitting back.

“Thankfully GDPR is principles based so applying common sense when processing data should keep you safe. Trustee judgement and rationale is certainly required as the financial, reputational and time-wasting fallout are too high to risk.  

“The key to GDPR is transparency and charities will be treated with no more leniency than corporate businesses. Therefore, take a look at your data protection policies, ensure you are compliant and make sure you consistently review them.”

  1. Writing a 12-month plan is instrumental to a charity marketing strategy

Liz Cartwright, managing director at Cartwright Communications, said: “Drafting a 12-month plan which includes all your milestones and events as well as planned press releases, social media posts, press calls etc. will be an invaluable tool for your charity.

“I would also recommend nailing down your spokesperson, perhaps your chairman is fine to be quoted in press releases but potentially not the best when speaking to broadcast media. Sort out these details in advance so that you are fully organised when that press call or reactive radio interview comes around.”

  1. Don’t be afraid to be bold when asking for money

Steve Hampson and Steve Warren, committee members of the Star Trust – an East Midlands charity run by key people from the business sector which supports good causes across the region – said: “Fundraising is integral to the success of a charity and there is fierce competition so you have to be bold when asking for support whether that be sponsorship, funding or event backing.

“There are a number of different ways to fundraise depending on your target audience and branding. Holding an event is a great way to raise funds as you have ticket sales, raffles, auctions etc. and if you’re able to get a discounted rate on event costs then you have the opportunity to raise a significant amount.”

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