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How charity trustees can support the crisis in Ukraine

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The situation in Ukraine is changing rapidly and we appreciate that many of our clients and partners want to support the crisis and help those in need.  For charity trustees, this can create some challenge and so we have set out below a number of points to consider along with links to the Charity Commission’s detailed guidance notes:

Emergency appeals

The CC guidance about emergency appeals explains how charities can help when responding to an emergency, including advice about collaborating with other charities and managing risks when planning an appeal: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/disaster-appeals-charity-commission-guidance-on-starting-running-and-supporting-charitable-disaster-appeals-cc40

Setting up a new charity to help the people of Ukraine

Whilst the CC are prioritising applications to register new charities with objects that relate to the crisis in Ukraine, the CC has highlighted that those applying should first consider whether supporting an established registered charity with relevant experience may be more efficient.  The CC rightly points out that existing humanitarian charities know how to get help to those who need it and know how to operate safely on the ground. The Disasters Emergency Committee, a coalition of 15 leading UK charities, has launched its collective appeal for Ukraine and many other registered charities are also helping to provide vital services to those caught up in the conflict.

Changing charitable objects to support the Ukraine crisis

A number of our clients have considered whether they can provide support at this time. In doing so, the trustees must consider whether the charity’s existing charitable objects allow the charity to help. The objects are set out in the charity’s governing document and if the existing objects do not allow the charity to help, the trustees may be able to amend the governing document to change them.  Before taking such steps, the CC has reminded trustees that they should consider:

  • whether there are other charities that may be better placed to respond
  • the wider and longer-term impact of changing the charity’s objects including on existing beneficiaries
  • whether it is in the best interests of the charity

It is always sensible to use the principles of trustee decision-making and take independent professional advice if appropriate:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/its-your-decision-charity-trustees-and-decision-making

Safeguarding

Protecting people and safeguarding responsibilities are a fundamental part of operating as a charity for the public benefit.  The CC has reminded charities that operating in a conflict zone is incredibly complex, as is providing support to those fleeing conflict zones, but it is critical that charities protect and safeguard their beneficiaries, volunteers and staff.   The CC has urged trustees to:

Organising or participating in aid convoys

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office currently advises against all travel to Ukraine and no longer provides consular assistance in person due to the deteriorating security situation.

The CC has made it clear that trustees of charities and charitable appeals providing humanitarian support need to think very carefully about whether organising and/or participating in a convoy is the most effective way to deliver aid to those in need.  It has advised that supporting local economies by buying much needed goods close to the point of need is often a more practical and sustainable alternative.  Charities that appeal for or purchase medicines should also be aware of, and ensure they are compliant with, the relevant regulations.

Complying with financial sanctions and identifying donors

All UK nationals and legal entities established under UK law, including charities, must comply with UK financial sanctions, wherever in the world their activities take place.  The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation publishes a list of all those subject to financial sanctions in the UK and has produced guidance for charities on how to ensure compliance with financial sanctions.

The CC has reminded charities that it is the trustees’ responsibility to check whether individuals or organisations they are dealing with are subject to financial sanctions and take appropriate action to ensure that the charity is not breaching the regulations: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/550694/Tool_6.pdf

Working with new partners

If you are considering working with new partners, the CC has reminded trustees of the ‘know your partner’ principle. Trustees must carry out appropriate and proper due diligence on individuals and organisations that the charity gives grants to or uses to help deliver its work. This includes assessing the risks to ensure that those partners are suitable and appropriate for the charity to work with: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/550697/Tool_8.pdf

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