Running your organisation during COVID-19

In the current crisis your organisation may need to change some of its working practices, make contingency plans, adapt services and support, whilst ensuring you continue to meet requirements for charity reporting and regulation. Here are key resources to help you through the COVID-19 crisis.

We know it’s a difficult time for many groups. Please contact us directly to let us know what challenges you face; we may be able to help, or to use the information to advocate for more support for you and the rest of the sector.

If you would like some one-to-one support, contact us at support@communityimpactbucks.org.uk or book a one to one Advice Plus session.

If you would like to become a member of Community Impact Bucks for free, please visit our Membership page to join and to view the extra benefits offered to members.

Planning and Decision-making

All organisations will have to review and update their plans and make some key decisions in response to the coronavirus crisis. Here are some key things to think about:

  • If you are changing what you deliver, are you able to do so within your charitable objects or can you make changes to enable you to do so? See Charity Commission guidance.
  • What are your contingency plans in the event of a significant number of staff and volunteers being sick or in self-isolation?
  • What areas of work can be stopped or delayed or need to be repurposed? What are the most essential elements of beneficiary focused work to continue and are there different ways you could respond given the restrictions? Can any internal requirements be delayed or simplified to reduce strain on staff and volunteer capacity?
  • What does your constitution allow you to do about holding trustee meetings, AGMs and General Meetings to make decisions?
    • Can you postpone, cancel or hold them online/by telephone? Bates Wells has produced a guide on Charity Trustee Meetings, outlining procedural considerations such as giving notice of meetings, meeting quorum requirements and alternatives to trustee meetings.
    • Will postponing or cancelling your AGM mean that you are deviating from your governing document or that you cannot file your accounts on time? If so, you need to contact the Charity Commission or Companies House (e.g. for CICs)
    • Ensure that any decisions about or within these meetings are carefully recorded so that it is clear what matters have been discussed, what options considered, and the rationale for the decision taken.
  • If you are holding meetings online, make sure that all participants are adequately briefed on the technology and the way the meeting will operate beforehand. The Chartered Governance Institute has produced some useful guidance on good practice for virtual board and committee meetings and the Association of Chairs has some top tips including identifying possible technology platforms.
  • Do you need to delay signing off your accounts in order to have more certainty relating to the financial situation going forward? If so, you need to contact the Charity Commission.

Finance and risk management

Financial planning

  • Cashflow management should be a priority.
    • Make sure you’re doing everything you can to get funding in: chase outstanding debts, get out invoices for services already delivered, report on time to your funders so you get the next payments quickly.
    • Identify amount and timing of unavoidable fixed costs and review whether or not certain projects, spends or activities can be stopped or delayed in order to focus on essential spending.
    • Agree delays to payments with lenders and suppliers if feasible.
    • Cranfield Trust’s webinar on Cash flow forecasting gives practical suggestions, ideas and resources to help you.
  • Decide if you should use your reserves to cover your costs, and how much you can allocate to this; for example, how much of your reserves could you spend before you have to think about closing down altogether, taking into account any costs of closure.
  • Review the impact of the financial crisis on any investments, and consider seeking professional advice on actions to take.
  • Charity SORP has issued advice on how the current situation might impact your financial reporting.
  • If your organisation includes commercial activities you may find it useful to look at the COVID-19 resources offered by Bucks Business First.

Funders and donors

  • Get in touch with your current funders, tell them about the steps you are taking and agree any changes to your delivery and funding with them. Contact any funders you you have applied to and update them on your situation.
  • Your donors will probably welcome an update and in some cases this may even prompt them to make further donations.
  • See if you can access any of the new funds which have been launched in response to the crisis.
  • Consider any other fundraising options which may be open to you e.g. an online appeal.

Risk management

The current situation may throw up new risks for your organisation or require different approaches to risk management. Some examples of risks voluntary groups are facing include:

  • Inability to deliver projects or services in the usual way
  • Loss of income through trading no longer taking place and cancelled fundraising events
  • Reduction in investment income
  • Reduced staff or volunteer capacity due to sickness or self-isolation
  • Safeguarding of service users and staff/volunteers
  • Increased data protection and cybersecurity risk due to working remotely.

You can find lots of useful resources on risk management, insurance and protecting against fraud on the Community Impact Bucks website. You should also refer to the Charity Commission guidance on risk management.

Zurich has produced a helpful guide on Organisational resilience and pandemic planning.

Watch a couple of recent webinars on the risks of Covid-19 in relation to cybersecurity and fraud and how to protect your charity:

Service delivery

  • Trustees or committee/Board members will need to decide whether and how services can be provided within government guidelines, and may choose to prioritise, reorganise or refocus services (in line with your charitable purposes and any funder requirements).
  • As lockdown restrictions ease, the UK Government has published extensive guidance for different types of workplace on how to work safely during the pandemic. Organisations should consider the guidance that most closely aligns with the way you work, and you may need to use more than one of these guides: for example, a day centre providing lunch may look at the guidance on ‘offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments’ and ‘Restaurants, pubs, bars and cafés’.
  • For Community Buildings and Village Halls, our umbrella organisation ACRE has produced a guidance pack. If you would like a copy of this please email debi@communityimpactbucks.org.uk
  • Charity Retail Association has published an extensive re-opening pack including a poster to assure people that the shop is “COVID-19 Secure” and that the Government’s guidelines are being kept to.
  • Some organisations will need to record details of people on their premises to support NHS Test and Trace. The ICO have published guidance for organisations about collecting and retaining these details.

Managing your team

  • Where you have staff or volunteers who need to work away from their homes you must ensure they do so safely and within government guidelines – the government guidance for employers may be helpful.
  • For many organisations, your team of staff and volunteers are likely to be working from home which may present new challenges:
    • Ensure they have appropriate equipment. Although one option may be to allow usage of personal devices, if this is not your normal practice it may create additional security and data protection concerns to address.
    • Although their home-based “work environment” may not be ideal encourage the application of the DSE guidelines where possible and ensure they are aware they should take plenty of movement breaks.
    • Consider using additional software for collaboration and communication (such as MS Teams, Zoom and similar)
    • Support the teams with appropriate communication, which may need to be more frequent than is usual because of the likelihood of people being physically separated and dealing with the general uncertainties due to the crisis.
    • The guidance from NCVO on Supporting staff and volunteers to work from home and the free Remote Working Pack from FSI and Skill Pill may be helpful for remote working arrangements.

Safeguarding

  • Keeping people safe remains of utmost importance, but you may have to make different decisions in the current situation in order to meet people’s needs.
  • Think about how your beneficiaries, staff, volunteers and donors safety might be affected in the current situation, and what you need to do to keep them safe. NCVO’s safeguarding resources may help you and members get a discount on services from their Trusted Supplier SafeCIC
  • If you need support with your safeguarding processes, we have a number of safeguarding services that can help.

Other support organisations

Below are some other local and national organisations which you may find helpful.

Action 4 Youth provides information and advice for youth groups and projects.

Bucks Business First provides information and advice for all member business organisations (including CICs).

Leap supports sports and physical activity organisations in Buckinghamshire.

The Clare Foundation offers advice and support to charities and not for profit organisations in Bucks.

Charity Excellence Framework offers various toolkits including one on COVID-19.

Charity Finance Group champions and supports good practice in charity finance management, including during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Charity Tax Group Coronavirus information hub for tax and finance professionals.

Institute of Fundraising Professional membership body for fundraising.

NCVO champions the voluntary sector and volunteering and supports voluntary organisations with expert knowledge and resources.

Small Charities Coalition supports small charities with tools and resources, including COVID-19, and campaigns on behalf of them.