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Charity Commission review – Revelation Foundation

By Stephen Mathews | 10 December 2020

The Revelation Foundation produces and broadcasts Christian content television programmes. Originally broadcasting from the UK, the bulk of the operations were moved to Spain over a number of years. The Commission’s involvement in the Revelation Foundation stemmed from complaints regarding the transparency of the charity’s funding arrangements. The subsequent inquiry identified a number of serious failings.

Whilst the structure and set up of the Revelation Foundation is likely to be more complex than many of the organisations that we serve, a number of the findings represent consistent themes applicable to all charities.

The Commission’s findings included:

 

  • The charity’s structure was complex. The consequences of this meant:  
    • The management of legal issues was often not understood;
    • The trustees tended to view the various entities involved in the operation as one;
    • The trustees were unclear on the flow of funds between the different entities and the implications that these arrangements had on the charity;
    • It was not clear who owned the assets. 
  • There was a lack of policies and the trustees did not always identify and manage conflicts of interest. One area where this became apparent was in the employment of family members with no evidence of an open and fair recruitment process. 
  • The trustees were criticised for not evidencing an adequate decision-making process when considering a venture of this significance to the charity. In particular there was no evidence that an adequate risk assessment had been carried out early enough in the process.
  • Trustees did not fully understand their roles. Examples included:
    • A lack of awareness of the distinction between trustees and management;
    • Decision making often informal and therefore not properly recorded;
    • Little awareness on the need to account for and disclose donations in kind;
    • Confusion about the disclosure of related party transactions.
  • The trustees failed to keep sufficiently detailed minutes of meetings and so could not demonstrate that matters of importance were discussed fully (see associated blog ‘back-to-basics’ in this Sharpen edition).
  • The trustees failed to have in place sufficient financial controls to protect the charity’s assets or its financial investment in Spain. In particular a failure to understand Spanish law posed a significant financial threat.
  • There was a failure to obtain appropriate professional advice before taking important strategic decisions that would have significant impact on the charity and its property. We often see Christian organisations reluctant to take such advice, but it is important to recognise when as a trustee body you are ‘out of your depth’ and so when to seek professional advice. 
  • Influence of a non-trustee over decision making. The inquiry identified concern that the founder of the charity, who was no longer a trustee, was in effect operating as a ‘shadow trustee’ and that his involvement in the charity should be clarified.

 

Many of these findings are repeated over and over again in Commission inquiries.

 

  • A failure to understand the roles and responsibilities of trustees;
  • Not obtaining appropriate professional advice before making significant decisions;
  • Not always managing conflicts of interest;
  • Not having in place sufficient policies and controls;
  • Not fully documenting decisions in detailed minutes;

 

These are basic requirements for all charities and charity trustees. For more, please see the associated blog in this edition of Sharpen - ‘5-minute guides for trustees’.


Read more...

Charity Commission 5-minute guides for trustees

Charity Inquiry: Revelation Foundation - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Posted by Stephen Mathews
 
Stephen is a Senior Consultant at Stewardship and has spent over 25 years in the accountancy profession. Stephen is a trustee for a number of small Christian charities and has been involved in various church leadership roles for over 20 years.

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