It has been nearly two weeks since I started as the Charity Commission’s chief executive. The early days have been a whirlwind – new faces, a packed diary, hectic travel between our four offices, and a great deal to learn about the people and processes at work in the Commission. My principal impression of the Commission so far is of a committed and engaged staff. I am leading a team of people with diverse skills and perspectives, but who share a vocation: to promote public confidence in charities.
I believe they are right to feel that way. Charitable endeavour is at the heart of our society: giving generously of our time and money and helping others are what makes us distinct as a nation – it has shaped our history and is, I believe, what continues to make our nation both resilient and innovative.
I have seen for myself the difference charities can make. One of the things I enjoyed most about my time at the Office for Civil Society, was coming into contact with charities of all shapes and sizes and learning about how they transform lives. And I have served as a trustee myself, and understand what responsibilities rest on the shoulders of these volunteers, who, collectively, run the 170,000 charities on our register.
The role of the Charity Commission at the heart of the ecosystem of charities, the state and the public, is to ensure trust and confidence in the sector stays strong. We are an enabler – enabling charities to retain the trust of the public and the state through ensuring they stay within the law and enabling them to be well governed. And we perform the vital function of holding to account the small proportion of trustees who do not behave as the law, and the public, expect.
The Commission’s role involves therefore a fine balance. Charities are neither our friends to be let off the hook, nor foes to be fought. We are their regulator, and at registration, in filing their annual return, when using our digital services and our guidance, they are our customers, who rightly expect a smooth, professional service.
I look forward to working with the Commission’s board and its staff to fulfil its mission over the next four years. It won’t be easy – the Commission’s funding is at a knife-edge, while demand on us is increasing. Securing our funding into the future is vital. But two weeks into my time at the Commission, I am energised, and excited about the challenges ahead. And in the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to meeting charities, their beneficiaries, Parliamentarians and our partners in government – all of whom have a central role in assuring the future of this vital sector.