Home > Blog > Of Queens, Kings and AGMs
3 October 2022 | Blog
Whatever you think of the monarchy, the way the accession of King Charles III was announced holds lessons for good practice in charity (and CIC) governance.
I was one of a handful of people in my village who went along to hear the official announcement that the sad ‘death of our late sovereign of happy memory’ means we now have a King. The Deputy Lord Lieutenant had raced back from the local town, where he had heard the proclamation given by the High Sheriff. He got the official news, in person, from someone he knew, and then passed it on to us, in person, so we can be pretty sure it’s true.
A ceremonial verbal announcement counteracts loss of trust in mass media, and increasing traction of misinformation, tailored through social media algorithms. We are being told something, that we have a right to know, in person. This particular occasion made me think about how charities and social businesses account for themselves (or not).
Accountability is often cited as a core charity value – and is an obligation. Telling people stuff. The minimum requirement is generally an AGM, but having sat on, and worked with, lots of charity boards, I know we often forget why this is important.
AGMs can be seen as a quaint and irritating custom, needing a quick flick through the constitution, or articles, to check the rules, suss out who has a right to vote, and how the process is supposed to work. Many of us (obliged or curious) will have trailed along to a dull replaying of dry AGM formalities, possibly to be rewarded for our efforts by a biscuit or glass of wine.
Some charities stick up a half-hearted notice, don’t expect anyone to turn up, and cover off the formal business as a subset of the usual board meeting. Others celebrate the AGM as a bit of a ‘jolly’, or marketing opportunity. There are diverse legal structures and membership models, and therefore differences in obligations, but obligations are there for a reason.
The way in which the accession was announced reminded me that boards of charities, social businesses (and PLCs) are holding something in trust for others – we are stewards, not owners. Part of society and accountable. Whether we have competed for the honour of trusteeship, or were too slow to leave the room before the call to join the board, we are (technically) awarded the role. Unlike the monarchy, we don’t inherit it.
By holding a public meeting (albeit with less pomp and ceremony), we are discharging part of our responsibility to show who we are, that we have been working towards our purpose, and are solvent. To make sure that stakeholders are ok with what we are doing and are willing to let us carry on.
Consultants for Good are about to hold our first AGM. We became a Community Interest Company in May 2021.
The voluntary Directors are individuals who stepped up, and give their time freely to ‘hold’ the CIC, in trust, so that it is able to continue to support the network of specialist consultants – and they do so because they think it is important.
On November 8th the board will, in person (albeit on Zoom) tell our members what we have been doing, who has been doing it – and that we are solvent. And we will ask members to confirm they are ok with us carrying on.
See you there. And please let us know if you are interested in joining our merry band!
Karen Morton, Chair, Consultants for Good.