7 tips for a better charity website

Neil Wilson, Communications Officer, Charity Commission for Northern IrelandLate last year the Commission conducted research into trust and confidence in charities amongst the Northern Ireland public. The results were interesting. While trust and confidence had expectedly taken a small hit over the last year the research also gave us an indication of how people liked their charities to be.

92% of people wanted charities to be transparent, 70% preferred them when they operated locally. 49% trusted them more if they were based in Northern Ireland and 84% wanted them to be well managed. In short, accessible, local, open and well-run charities are well placed right in the sweet spot of public perception.

A charity’s online presence should demonstrate how a charity is all of these things. But how?

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Unblurring the lines – lessons in governance from the Rainbow Project

Duane Farrell, Chair of The Rainbow ProjectHow do you make best use of the skills and experience of Trustees, while still respecting the proper roles of Trustees and senior management? 

It’s a question that has underpinned The Rainbow Project’s development of its governance structures, in the context of a new strategy that focused us on being a change agent for clients, in wider society, and within the organisation itself.  We knew Trustees had a lot to offer. But we’d been working to clarify the Board’s and executive team’s respective contributions, and didn’t want to end up blurring those lines between strategy/governance on the one hand, and management/implementation on the other. Here is what we learned.

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“Trust is always conditional” – why Data Protection matters

Damien Smyth, IT OfficerWe’re sitting on the cusp of a vast data-driven age that some have even started to refer to as the fourth industrial revolution.

The theory goes that if steam powered the first, electricity, mass production and the division of labour the second and computing the third then the fourth epoch of technological progress will be driven by what we can store

Indeed, we can already see how this is beginning to shape our lives. Drones, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and ‘the internet of things’ are already starting to impact on our day-to-day lives. Much of this is powered by information sharing and while the sharing of information helped power our last great technological jumps, the next few years will be defined by it.

It is perhaps with great foresight that the Data Protection Act 1998 came into being. In an increasingly interconnected world it sought to strike a balance between innovation-feeding and the right of the individual to enjoy privacy.

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No such thing as average – what the register of charities tells us about the sector in Northern Ireland

aoife-morrison-policy-managerNorthern Ireland has a long history of a vibrant, trusted and well thought of charity sector. But, as strange as it seems now, there was no way to fully and accurately quantify its existence until 2013 when the Commission began registering charities.

While we may only be part of the way there – with 5,300 charities registered out of a final estimated total of between 11,000 and 17,500, we’re now able to put together a much fuller picture of the charity sector in Northern Ireland than has ever existed before.

So what’s the bottom line? What we find is a sector that is marked by its diversity where simple ‘averages’ do not reflect the breadth of charities in terms of what they do, how they are established, their income and where they are located.

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Open data – who benefits?

damien-smyth-it-officerLate last month the Commission began the process of opening up the data it holds for public consumption.

In line with a general drive in the Northern Ireland public sector, to “improve the transparency and accountability of government”, it’s aimed at stimulating innovation both within the public sector and without and having Open Data As Default, because it’s the right thing to do.

But with the amount of information we hold about charities, and the insights provided by the research we produce, becoming increasingly vast, we also realised that there were potential benefits to those we regulate of releasing our data as well.

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“It’s like conducting an orchestra.”

Kate Fleck, Chair of Open College Network NI on what makes a great Chair

I knew that being Chair of a Board can be both challenging and rewarding when I took over as Chair of the Board of Open College Network NI (OCNNI) in January 2016. Having been on the Board for the three previous years, one of these as Vice Chair, I had a clear idea of the sort of Board I wanted to be involved with and lead. For me it was about ensuring that the Board was both effective and active in supporting the CEO and that fully understood its role. It was also important that there was a sufficient and appropriate skills base.  Having just emerged from a difficult period, and with the organisation embracing a new strategic plan, there were certainly challenges – but opportunities as well.

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Mind the Gap – a Chief Executive’s view of charity regulation


John FarrellyJohn Farrelly, Chief Executive Officer of Ireland’s new Charities Regulator, provides an overview of his approach to regulating and protecting charities.

For many years I lived in London. One of my abiding memories was the announcement as you step off the Tube  to “Mind the gap”. Twenty years later, that message underpins my approach to regulating and protecting charities.

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Charity Commission’s new blog

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has this week launched a new blog, which will offer information, updates and advice straight from the Commission’s management team.

The blog, a new development for the charity regulator, has gone live this week with the Commission’s first post, which is focused on the annual reporting duties of registered charities.

Welcoming the publication, the Commission’s Chief Executive Frances McCandless looked forward to seeing the blog grow into an informative and accessible resource for charity trustees.

Frances McCandless, Charity Commission for Northern Ireland Chief Executive.JPGShe commented: “Working alongside our website and newsletter, this new blog will provide the public with a fresh way to keep updated on our work and other charity regulation news.

“I look forward to seeing the blog grow over coming months, with posts and discussions on a wide variety of topics and issues, as well as updates on Commission events and activities.”

The Commission’s first post Annual reporting – the next chapter for registered charities has been penned by the Commission’s Monitoring and Compliance Manager, Fiona Muldoon.

It provides an overview of annual reporting requirements for registered charities, as well as the benefits annual reporting will bring to charities and the wider public.

Future posts will include an overview of the Commission’s progress during the 2015-16 year, a focus on new research into public trust and confidence in Northern Ireland’s charities and information on Trustees Week 2016.

Annual reporting – the next chapter for registered charities

While the commencement of charity registration in Northern Ireland has been the headline news in recent years, it is important to remember that registration is only the beginning.

Registration as a charity with the Commission is a one off, compulsory process. However, once registered, all charities are then required to report annually to the Commission on their activities, governance and resources.

For many charities, this will be the first time they will have to report annually to a regulator, with accounts and reports submitted under annual reporting published on the charity’s register of charities entry.

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