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A message from OSCR’s CEO, David Robb

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The next few months look busy for ‘Team OSCR’. On the horizon we have new guidance, expanded web services and an updated survey into the public perception of Scottish charities, and charity views of our services.

I know that this time of year is also an exceptionally busy time for many charities and everyone at OSCR wishes you well with this.  In Scotland, the public are generous when it comes to donating, especially at this time of year.  That is fantastic, but donors are becoming more aware of the need to do so safely.  By giving incorrectly, they could be funding illegal activity or they could be putting their personal information at risk.  In the summer, we released some top tips on giving.  Charities should be aware of this advice when they ask the public for donations as they may be faced with more questions than ever before.  And remember, a significant number of Scottish charities have an annual return submission deadline during the festive period and late reporting is something that can affect how your charity is perceived – don’t start 2018 in default!

At the beginning of November we focused attention on celebrating the ‘secret superheroes’ of the charity sector, our 180,00 trustees.  I really think it is important that we take a moment each year to do this, and to applaud the dedication and endeavour of our boards and management committees – there would be no charities without you and your work makes a vital difference in communities throughout Scotland and beyond.

I hope you were able to participate, however fleetingly, in Trustees’ Week and that it helped renew our collective commitment to the highest standards of governance.  Nobody needs reminding that we live in challenging times.  The persons in management and control of our charities (aka ‘trustees’) need to be at the top of their game to steer their organisations through the choppy waters of Brexit, restrictions in public finances and, more recently, a heightened focus on possible abuses of power leading to bullying or harassment.  Whilst there is no suggestion that sexual harassment is any more prevalent in the charity sector than in other walks of life, neither should we imagine that charities are immune to the problems, which of course are not new, but which may be receiving additional attention in this time of heightened public and media scrutiny.  The wider public place high levels of trust in charities all year round and our main focus as regulator is to help underpin that trust and confidence so that our charity sector remains vibrant and dynamic, and provides real public benefit.

"Leadership requires five ingredients: brains, energy, determination, trust, and ethics. The key challenges today are in terms of the last two - trust and ethics." Fred Hilmer

I hope that in the current climate, trustees are re-visiting their governance, re-assessing risks, with a particular focus on vulnerable beneficiaries, volunteers or staff, and are ready to take swift action to protect their charity’s reputation if required.  Be proportionate, but be prepared.  After all, superheroes are expected to come to the rescue…