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What to expect if you are a trustee of a charity we are concerned about

Published: 22/01/2020
Updated: 22/01/2020


If we have a concern about a charity we may deal with it formally or informally, depending on our assessment of the risk to the charity, public and sector.

Informal Activity - Compliance

Sometimes we will find that the best way to deal with issues we have found is not through a formal inquiry, but by finding ways of working with the charity or supporting it in other ways in order to help them deal with the issues themselves.

This may involve:

  • signposting charities, or those who have raised concerns, to relevant guidance
  • making recommendations to charities, or those who have raised concerns, about actions they could take
  • flagging up a charity for future review or action – for example, we might actively monitor their finances or other aspects of their activities.

Formal Activity - Regulatory Inquiries

Where we have decided that there are grounds to conduct an inquiry, we will generally contact the charity trustees, the people who have the general control and management of the administration of a charity.

Unless it is not appropriate, our initial contact with the charity trustees will be through the charity’s Principal Contact.

We will explain that we are opening an inquiry and outline what will be involved in the inquiry process. Opening an inquiry does not mean that we have found any wrongdoing by the charity, simply that we need to know more about the situation. We will explain to the charity trustees what the inquiry is about and ask for information in order to give us a better understanding of how the charity operates generally, and of the particular issues we are interested in.

We will not disclose to charity trustees the identity of those who have raised concerns with us unless we have been given permission to do so or are required to do so by a Court. This is because it is important that people can raise concerns about charities with us in confidence. However, in some inquiries the nature of the issues involved may make it obvious who has raised a concern with us.

In the course of our inquiries we may ask for information from any charity trustee or person involved with the charity. This may include written correspondence, telephone calls or face to face meetings and on-site checks of the charity’s records.

We may also request more information from those who originally raised the concern and other relevant third parties.

Where we request information from a person to assist us with our inquiries, we expect them to deal with the request in line with the timescale we set out. It is an offence for anyone to knowingly provide information which is false or misleading to us – to do so may result in a fine or imprisonment on conviction.

Charity law also provides us with the power to compel any person or organisation to provide information that we consider necessary for the purposes of our inquiries. Failure to comply is an offence and may result in a fine or imprisonment on conviction.

We will take all reasonable steps to minimise disruption to the work and reputation of the charity as well as its staff, volunteers and trustees during our inquiries. However, where we consider that there has been misconduct in the administration of a charity or that we need to protect the charity or its assets we can take protective action. For example we can direct charity trustees not to take certain actions, or direct banks not to part with a charity’s assets without our consent.