About the Code

Good Governance – a code for the Voluntary and Community Sector is just what it says: a code of governance written by voluntary organisations for voluntary organisations.

The Code was first published in 2005, in response to demand from the sector. It was written by representatives of the Founding Group with support from the Charity Commission. It was championed and promoted by the Governance Hub. The second edition of the Code was published in 2010, following wide consultation with the sector. We have aimed for:

  • a code that is more accessible to a wider range of organisations
  • clearer key principles
  • a focus on delivering the mission
  • a proportionate and adaptable approach
  • an understanding of people and their roles as well as policies and systems

We have also published a summary version and a version for smaller organisations. We are publishing resources to help with putting the Code into practice.

1. Who is behind the Code?

The five partners in the Code Founding Group are:

  • ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations)
  • ICSA (Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators)
  • NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations)
  • SCC (Small Charities Coalition – merged with Charity Trustee Networks in 2011)
  • WCVA (Wales Council for Voluntary Action)

The representatives of the Founding Group partners form the Code Steering Group, with a Charity Commission representative in attendance and an independent Chair.

2. Who else is involved?

3. Why use it?

A well-governed organisation will find it easier to comply with the law and meet its aims effectively. Using the Code will help you to develop good governance, whether you are starting from scratch or reviewing what you already have in place.

The Code’s principles and good practice tips are aimed to help board members of voluntary and community organisations:

  • Recognise and meet legal requirements
  • Know how well the organisation is meeting its aims
  • Make good, timely decisions
  • Explain where, why and how money has been spent
  • Provide strong leadership
  • Treat people fairly and equally

Using the Code will also help you demonstrate to funders and supporters that you take good governance seriously.

 4. How does it work?

The Code is a framework to support good governance. It is about principles you can understand and apply to your organisation, not a set of rules or a checklist.

Six principles describe how an effective board can provide good governance and leadership:

  • Understanding their role
  • Ensuring delivery of organisational purpose
  • Working effectively both as individuals and as a team
  • Exercising effective control
  • Behaving with integrity
  • Being open and accountable

These principles form the backbone of the Code. For each principle there is an explanation of what it means, why it matters, key legal requirements and examples of good practice.

The version for small organisations provides additional guidance on how to put the principles into practice and where to get more information.

5. Who is using it already?

74% of charity Chief Executives say their charities use the Code (ACEVO pay survey 2011-12). All kinds of charities, large and small, are using the Code already.

6. How can we use it?

Have a look at our ‘How can I use the Code?’ page

7. As a professional, can I use the Code for training? Do I need permission?

We are happy for anyone to use the Code to help organisations develop better governance. You may reproduce Code material free of charge. Please acknowledge the Code as the source of the information, reproduce it accurately and acknowledge the Code Founding Group’s copyright.

The Code relies on the support of Founding Group members and other funders. If you use the Code, why not support it?

8. Can organisations get accredited for using the Code?

No. At the moment we have no plans to do this.

The Code aims to help organisations improve their governance by applying the principles; it is about flexibility and proportionality, not uniform standards. This would make accreditation a huge and challenging undertaking which would require substantial ongoing resources.

9. How can we get recognised for using the Code?

Contact us and tell us how you have used the Code to improve your governance; we would like to be able to publish your story as a case study.

The Winifred Tumin Memorial Prize for Best Practice in Charity Governance has been established by NCVO in honour of the work done by Lady Winifred Tumin to improve charity governance. Can you demonstrate how you have used the Code to improve your effectiveness and deliver greater public benefit? Click here for further details.