Safeguarding is something that a very significant number of charities need to engage with. Karl Wilding, the new chief executive of NCVO, is on the record as saying that this is now the number one governance priority for charities. The Charity Commission has also made it a priority.
For finance leaders, safeguarding may not be a direct concern, because it tends to be the focus of those on the front line. But we believe it’s important to consider this, for a number of reasons.
The first reason is risk. If you’re a finance director, it’s worth being involved in anything which has a significant risk element to it, and therefore the potential to significantly impact on the security of the charity. Safeguarding is something which should feature heavily in the risk log, and therefore something which the FD is likely to find themselves with some ownership of.
The second is investment. The finance leader is the person responsible for allocating expenditure to particular activities, and your budget for safeguarding – just as for another key issue right now, equality and diversity – is something which says a lot about your organisational priorities.
Yet another reason is culture and compliance. Safeguarding is about both processes and attitudes. And those processes and attitudes which ensure strong safeguarding are those which ensure strong protections against fraud, cyber-crime and HR issues. It comes down to a collective ownership of good behaviour among staff, and a willingness to raise concerns and challenge.
One thing which stuck with me strongly from an overseas special interest group on fraud, earlier this year, was an assertion that management behaviour was a huge risk indicator.
“The thing I’ve noticed in common in all these issues,” one expert said, “is that they are more likely where the chief executive is a bully.”
The finance director is a senior figure responsible for setting the culture of the organisation, in particular because HR responsibility will often sit with the FD. So this is an area where it remains important to engage.
This is an area where CFG is likely to continue to engage with public policy because it forms part of a broader suite of concerns about accountability, governance and regulation. There is an argument that it would be right to provide substantially more regulatory support in this and other areas, although this would need significant increases in funding for sector regulation.
The new safeguarding resources are available on the NCVO website.
More specifically for finance professionals, there are sections which explore the considerations for directors of operations, HR directors, CEOs and fundraising managers.
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