The Charity Commission has said trustees can hold “virtual” meetings, but should document their decision to do so if there is no current provision in their governing document.
Yesterday evening the regulator published some advice based on “frequently asked questions” it has had since people began self-isolation and social distancing measures.
The Commission said it was trying to take a proportionate approach in “unprecedented times” and would be adding to its guidance.
It said: “In the current situation, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold face-to-face meetings. Some charities have clauses in their governing documents that allow them to meet virtually or to use telephone facilities, so we advise trustees to check their governing document and see if they can make amendments themselves to facilitate changes as to how or when meetings are held.
“Where there is no such clause in your governing document and you decide to hold meetings over the phone or using digital solutions, we will understand but you should record this decision and that you have done this to demonstrate good governance of your charity.”
The Commission said some charities may need to postpone their annual general meeting (AGM) and other key events. In these cases it also advised documenting how decisions were taken.
Earlier this week it said charities worried that they may not be able to file annual returns on time should ask for an extension.
The regulator also reminded charities that they should continue to report any serious incidents in line with existing guidance. Its initial messaging to the sector last week focused on serious incidents and was criticised as being unhelpful before being withdrawn.
Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: “These are unprecedented times, which will test all parts of our society. Charities are no exception – indeed many are faced with the double challenge of meeting vastly increased demand for their services, while income from traditional fundraising events and other sources falls away.
“While the Commission cannot alone alleviate these pressures on charities, we can respond by taking a pragmatic and proportionate approach to regulation and providing information that helps charities continue to comply with the spirit of their obligations while working very differently. As an early step, we have published answers to some of the most common questions we are being asked. We will be adding to this in the period ahead, as we talk to sector bodies about what charities need from us, and as we continue to respond to questions from individual charities through our contact centre, which remains open for business.”