2nd February 2017

Representatives from Prism the Gift Fund were delighted to spend a day with the Charity Commission and other not-for-profit officials, learning about the important steps charities must take when working in high risk areas of the world. There are 14,000 charities in the UK that operate internationally, with an annual income of £16 billion. Prism’s Collective Funds work across multiple countries, from France to Lebanon, U.S.A to Israel. Many of our refugee Collectives focus on providing aid to those in more difficult areas to reach, and therefore, we are always required to be cautious and diligent in our work.

With the recent shakeup in the charity sector and the increasing need for international aid, here are the top 5 things we learned from our day with the Commission on how to ensure that aid reaches its intended destination.

  1. Trustees are key! The higher the risk in an area, the more attention your Trustees must be paying. It’s important to understand your charity’s purpose, ensuring your work is always fulfilling its mandate and benefiting the public. Trustees must be familiar with your governing documents, up to date with your latest accounts and aware of any new laws that may affect your work. Be prepared to question the challenge, and make balanced and informed decisions in areas of greater risk. Here’s some essential reading for any Trustee. 
  2. A risk based approach is always the best way. Ask yourself- how much money is involved? The more money, the higher the risk and more attention you must pay. This is to avoid any reputation damage and to ensure your charitable purposes are being fulfilled. If other charities are already working in the area, will you be duplicating their work? Use this tool kit to assess your risk. 
  3. Know your donor, know your partner and know your beneficiaries. Ensure that your donations haven’t come from illegal or inappropriate sources and be aware of private benefit. Understand your beneficiaries by having clear criteria on why you support the people that you support- put this on your website for clarity to donors. Finally, know who you’re working with! Ensure you have all the correct documents when partnering with other organisations. Use the NPO register of the country you’re working in, and ask for all legal documents.
  4. Protect yourself when working with partners and monitor your funds. Give small amounts of money, staggered over a period of time, and use the resources you have to hand. Social media can be a good way of reporting. Use this tool kit to ensure you are working in accordance with UK charity law.
  5. If you and your Trustees are not 100% confident that your aid will reach the end cause, reassess the situation and locate partners. Charity Trustees have a legal duty to protect charity funds and ensure they are used legitimately. This chapter will help you to ensure the correct processes and due diligence is being followed.