I was interested to read the Charity Commission's conclusions following their investigations into two royal charities: MWX Foundation (formerly Sussex Royal: The Foundation which was established by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex) and the Royal Foundation Of The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge.
The Charity Commission opened cases into these two charities last year following concerns regarding transfers of funds between the charities and to another charity called Travalyst. In summary, the Commission found that in each case the transfers were lawful, in line with their governing documents and there was no evidence to suggest that any conflicts of interest were managed inappropriately.
However, the Commission raised two important guidance points which should serve as a reminder of good governance practice.
- Documenting decisions - The Commission said that the MWX Foundation could have done more to document its decision-making. Trustees should ensure that they keep a written record of their decisions, usually in the minutes of their meetings. The minutes should record what the trustees decide, the main reasons for the decision, the factors that the trustees considered or decided to disregard, whether the trustees took advice, their reasons for not following any advice they took and the key points of any discussions.
- Long-term planning - The Commission noted that the trustees of the MWX Foundation took a decision to close the charity just 12 months after it was established having spent almost half of its funds on legal and administrative costs. Whilst trustees are not expected to predict the future when establishing a new charity, all trustees should think about the longer term and consider carefully whether a new charity is the best way of achieving the intended aims. It is also worth noting that trustees should regularly review and assess the risks faced by their charity in all areas of its work and plan for the management of those risks.
... the Commission has found that decisions on spending were not adequately documented, limiting the ability of the trustees to demonstrate the reasons behind those decisions. The failure to properly record decisions does not represent best practice and is not in line with Charity Commission guidance. ... the Commission accepts that trustees cannot predict future events when setting up charities. However, its general guidance is that those establishing a new charity must carefully consider whether doing so is the best and most efficient way of achieving the intended charitable aims, ensuring as far as possible that initial costs are offset by the charity’s longer-term impact.