Review shows charity trustees want clearer, simpler guidance about reporting

London, 9 March 2021 – ICSA: The Chartered Governance Institute has today published the findings of a survey of charity trustees in the UK and Republic of Ireland which shows that there is a considerable desire for there to be clearer and simpler guidance about reporting. The survey also reflects some level of concern that reporting requirements are too long and complicated for a non-financial trustee.

Louise Thomson, Head of Policy (Not for Profit) at the Institute says:

“We ran a survey between October and December last year to explore the benefits and constraints of the current Charities SORP from the charity trustee perspective. The survey is part of the review that the Trustee Engagement strand is undertaking to decide if the content of the SORP meets the needs of trustees, as both preparers and users of charity accounts and annual reports. 429 respondents contributed to the survey, the results of which show that trustees want clearer guidance about reporting, particularly around reporting public benefit. Almost half of respondents to the survey (210) would like a checklist introduced to help trustees prepare the annual report and 189 were keen for a simple ‘how-to’ guide to be produced. Additionally, 141 respondents would like to see worked examples.

“Feedback to the survey highlighted a desire for annual reports to be shorter and more concise, written in plain English and for more visual information such as infographics to be used to communicate key facts. Overall, a call to better ‘tell the story’ of a charity, in terms of the activity, impact and financials was clear.

“The survey findings suggest that trustees would like a standardised format of reporting to be developed that is appropriate for most charities. Amongst other suggestions, they would like to see less repetition and more use of cross-referencing and hyperlinking to other documents. Some trustees also suggested that environmental impact reporting should be included, which is a good suggestion as environmental, social and governance issues are something that all charities should now be considering in depth.”

The majority of respondents (52%) found the SORP a useful framework for the Trustees’ Annual Report,
however, satisfaction levels drop (to 37%) with regard to the usefulness in presenting a charity’s financial information.

The survey showed that the amount of financial information that has to be provided is considered to be too extensive and too complicated for trustees without a financial background. One respondent stated that ‘The current presentation of financial figures is more difficult for non-financial practitioners who have to work quite hard to get an overall picture.’ Another said that the SORP forces charities to present the information in an unnatural and disjointed way rather than allowing them to say what they do, how they do it, what the risks are and the contingencies.

The full survey findings can be viewed at www.icsa.org.uk/SORPreport 

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For further information, please contact Maria Brookes, Media Relations Manager:

mbrookes@icsa.org.uk 
+44 (0)20 7612 7072
+44 (0)7890 649 143


Notes to Editors:

  1. The Chartered Governance Institute is the qualifying and membership body for governance with over 125 years’ experience of educating and supporting governance professionals. With a Royal Charter purpose of leading ‘effective and efficient governance and administration of commerce, industry and public affairs’, we provide professional development, guidance and thought leadership, and work with regulators and policy makers to champion high standards.

    The Institute has divisions in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong/China, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Southern Africa, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. The division headquartered in London (known as ICSA: The Chartered Governance Institute) represents and supports members in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Crown Dependencies and associated territories, which include the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Mauritius and Sri Lanka. Website: www.icsa.org.uk 

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