Charities create ‘more hopeful, loving, and cohesive places’, new Commission chair says

05 May 2022 News

Orlando Fraser speaking at Trustee Exchange

The Charity Commission will aim to strike a balance between regulation and support as the sector heads into challenging times, its new chair said yesterday. 

Orlando Fraser set out his priorities for the sector in his first speech since taking up the role, which took place at Civil Society Media’s Trustee Exchange conference yesterday.

He thanked charities for what they do, and said: “The breadth of charities’ work is incredible, and you really do make our countries more hopeful, more loving, and more cohesive places.” 

He said it is “both an honour, and a pleasure” to start the new job.  

“My intention is to lead an expert regulator that is fair, balanced and independent,” he added. 

‘Striking a balance between being robust and benign’ 

Fraser said he aimed to strike a “balance between being robust and benign” when it comes to regulating the sector. 

“We have to investigate where there are concerns about a charity, and we have to take action where there is proven misconduct or mismanagement,” he said. 

Where charities “are poisoning charitable status for everyone else” it is important the Commission takes tough action, he said. 

But Fraser said that the Commission would look to be more lenient where there had been an innocent mistake. 

“We have to remember that we are mostly dealing with volunteers trying overall to do great things,” he explained. 

When it comes to being independent, Fraser said: “We must act without fear or favour from any other entity, whether it be government, party politicians, beneficiaries or indeed the sector.” 

He added: “While we will report to Parliament, we will be beholden to no-one in applying the law, but the law itself.” 

‘Challenging time ahead’ 

Fraser acknowledged that many charities expect to see demand for services increase and are worried about funding. 

He said: “I fear that the months and years ahead will be challenging for charities, as they will be for many households.” 

This means the regulator “must be mindful of the challenges that trustees face in the months ahead”.

While the regulator cannot directly fund charities, Fraser said it would look at improving guidance and making it easy to find. 

‘Special trustee superpower’ 

Fraser praised trustees and suggested that they deserved more recognition. 

“Trusteeship is a public service, and one that is perhaps not acknowledged or understood as it should be,” Fraser said. 

Later he urged trustees to act as ambassadors for their charities, and said: “You are statistically the most likely people to be able to recruit more trustees for your own charity. 

“So please don’t lose sight of this special trustee superpower: advocate for your organisation, for the endorphins of volunteering, and the good work that you do.” 

He also urged charities to “work to make any recruitment drive as inclusive and diverse as possible, thus ensuring the continued excellence of the sector”.

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