Gillian McKay: Without free time, this sector would not function

Christmas is coming; the geese are getting fat and if statistics are anything to go by, in January our philanthropic generosity will have increased in proportion with our waist lines.

The ICAEW’s volunteering website certainly gets a lot of attention in January. January is the month of New Year resolutions and it seems that a common one to make is the decision to go out and volunteer for a charity. It’s a great impulse – the 2015-2016 Civic Community Life Survey (the latest one to have been written up) shows that 70% of respondents volunteered at least once in the last 12 months and 47% volunteered at least once a month. That is, of course, a great result and shows how much we all enjoy contributing to community cohesion in some way or another.

Furthermore, the simple fact is that without volunteers, the charity community simply would not function. For a start, there are the leagues of individuals who sign up to volunteer to support the wide range of activities that charities undertake, whether it is acting as carers, befrienders, advisors, sports coaches or gardeners.

Then there are the thousands of trustee boards running charities. None but a handful of charities pay their trustees, so the boards of our national sector are being run by those that donate their time freely. Trusteeship takes time, focus and skill.

Trustees need to dedicate time and energy to grapple with the responsibilities of becoming a trustee, not just when they first take up this role, but throughout their trusteeship. Charity governance is an area that evolves and changes in response to events in the charity and not for profit environment and trustees need to remain up to date with these changes.

At the ICAEW, we want to provide as much support as possible to those that want to carry on this work. We want to support not just our members, but everyone who is thinking of volunteering. From January 2019, we will be doing this in many ways.

Firstly, we will continue to help link up charities looking for volunteers with those wishing to volunteer through our volunteering website, Furthermore, from January, ICAEW will be launching the Volunteering Community. Membership of this community is open to ICAEW members and non-members, so anyone who volunteers or sits on a trustee board can join.

Within the community, we will be launching new trustee training modules. They are aimed at those new to being a trustee or those who wish to brush up on their skills and knowledge.

The modules contain six topic sections, which can be worked through at your own pace, with an optional assessment at the end. Those that decide to complete the modules will also receive a certificate of completion. The idea is to provide a basic understanding of what your legal obligations are as a trustee and to explore how you may deal with these. Membership will also provide UK-wide professional liability insurance for volunteering activities with a charity or other not for profit organisation. Again, this cover extends to all members of the community, whether or not they are ICAEW members.

For ICAEW members, it is a particularly useful way to address the ICAEW’s requirement that all members must carry professional liability insurance, even for financial services provided pro bono.

Community members will also receive a regular newsletter on updates to charity governance and volunteering issues. We really hope that this will be of value to those of us who give up our time to volunteer with charities. Without the free time given by us all, this sector would not exist and would not be providing the valuable services that it delivers. ■

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