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What the recent SCOTUS judge controversy can teach us about the Charities’ SORP

It's hard to get excited about the current review of the charities' SORP says Caron Bradshaw, but it's imperative we engage with the consultation. Like the recent controversial appointment of the US Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the implications for the future are significant.

  • Join our webinar on Friday 18 January to find out more
  • Have your say - consultation deadline, 4 February

SCOTUS judges and the Charities’ SORP

Last year a significant amount of air time and interest went into following the appointment of Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Judge, Brett Kavanaugh. There were many reasons why so many watched the confirmation hearings, not least the context of the #metoo movement. It was probably the most contentious appointment in recent history but it is worth reflecting that many nominees over the past have been controversial and then consider my argument as to why you should engage with the consultation, Guiding the Development of the Charities SORP.

Now individual SORP Advisory Committee appointments are not at stake, nor are such appointments for life! And the makeup of the SORP making body itself can change, as it did recently with the expansion of the SORP making body to include the regulators in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland alongside OSCR and the Charity Commission. But just like the makeup of the SCOTUS can impact law, culture and society in the US, the governance, process, purpose and remit of the SORP can have far reaching impact for the charity sector. This consultation could set the agenda of charity reporting for years to come. It may be a bit of a hard ask to get you to be excited by this invitation to comment but engage you should.

As the independent chair of the review, Gareth Morgan, says in his introductory remarks, … getting the processes right for development of new versions of the SORP is absolutely critical for the effectiveness of charities as a whole’.

The consultation is seeking input on four key areas;

  • the composition of the advisory SORP Committee,
  • Identification of, and engagement with, key stakeholders
  • The extent and effectiveness of engagement with key stakeholders and their information and reporting needs
  • The possibility of alternative reporting formats to supplement or replace the traditional trustees’ annual report and accounts

In addition, the Panel is seeking views on whether the work of the SORP Committee should be extended to include guidance on all forms of financial reporting that charities produce.

Recently, some commentators have been critical of the SORP process and whether, as a consequence the SORP does not meet their needs. Some have suggested that the SORP has been ‘captured by’ finance professionals and is way too technical.

What is clear to me is that to address scandals, negative press stories and misleading comparisons regarding what charities earn/raise, hold and spend we need a really clear SORP. Whilst the transparency of charities is not dictated by the SORP it has a huge part to play and for many the SORP is a significant part in their reporting and disclosures.

So it may not be the laws of the land which could be influenced for generations but the governance of the SORP is critically important to the effectiveness of charities now. We need those with a stake in that conversation and the future of charity reporting to engage and make their voices heard. Unlike the confirmation hearings your voice might make a difference to the outcome - don’t miss the opportunity to be heard!

To respond to the consultation:

The consultation is now closed

Professor Gareth Morgan, Independent Chair of the Charities SORP Governance Review will be hosting a free lunchtime webinar at 1pm on Friday 18 January to explain the Governance Review and allow charities to feed into the development process. 

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