Policy brief & purpose
Our Charity Conflict of Interest Policy covers any case where a trustees personal interest might contradict the charitable aims of the Society. This is an unwanted circumstance as it may have heavy implications on the trustees judgement and commitment to the charity, and by extension to the realization of its charitable goals.
This policy outlines the rules regarding conflict of interest and the responsibilities of trustees and the charity in resolving any such discrepancies.
This charity conflict of interest policy applies to all prospective or current Trustees of the charity, as well as independent contractors and persons acting on behalf of the charity.
The relationship of the charity with its Trustees should be based on mutual trust. As the charity is committed to preserving the interests of its members, it expects trustees to act only towards the charity’s fundamental interests.
Conflict of interest may occur whenever a Trustee’s interest in a particular subject may lead them to actions, activities or relationships that undermine the charity and may place it to disadvantage.
What is a Trustee conflict of interest?
This situation may take many different forms that include, but are not limited to, the following examples:
- Trustees’ ability to use their position with the charity to their personal advantage
- Trustees engaging in activities that will bring direct or indirect profit to a competitor.
- Trustees membership in organisations which contradict the aims of the charity.
- Trustees using connections obtained through the charity for their own private purposes.
- Trustees using charity equipment or infrastructure or means to support an external business
- Trustees acting in ways that may compromise the charity’s legality (e.g. taking bribes or bribing representatives of legal authorities)
The possibility that a conflict of interest may occur can be addressed and resolved before any actual damage is done. Therefore, when an Trustee understands or suspects that a conflict of interest exists, they should bring this matter to the attention of the trustees so corrective actions may be taken. Sub-groups of the charity must also keep an eye on potential conflict of interests of their sub-group members.
The responsibility of declaring conflicts of interest is a legal requirement of all trustees and doing so protects the Society from reputational damage or from potential legal action. All conflicts of interest will be dealt with as fairly as possible. In cases where a solution can not be found a grievance should be raised and this should follow the complaints and grievance policy.
In general, Trustees are advised to refrain from letting personal and/or financial interests and external activities come into opposition with the charity’s fundamental interests.
Process for declaring a Conflict of Interest
Trustees have a number of opportunities to declare conflicts of interest. E.g.
- At the start of any trustee meeting as a standard agenda item trustees can declare any conflicts of interest (or perceived conflicts of interest) . Agenda items will always be published in advance and trustees are expected to review these in advance so that any conflict of interest can be determined. Trustees with a conflict of interest will be excused from any vote and this will be minuted.
- All trustees are expected to complete a Trustee Register of Interests as part of their induction. The table of delegation outlines responsibilities for ensuring that these are completed. It is the responsibility of individual trustees to ensure that this is maintained and kept up to date.
Process for Resolving a Trustee Conflict of Interest
In order to resolve conflicts of interest these should first be raised. In order to deal with a conflict of interest it is proposed that trustees undertake one or more of the following actions; Action can usually be decided by discussion at the start of a meeting or agenda topic.
- Trustee abstains from the vote/discussion in which they are conflicted.
- Trustee removes themselves from a meeting while a topic is discussed or voted on.
- Trustee ends the relationship for which they are conflicted. Both the conflict and termination of a relationship should be declared in the register of interests.
- Trustee stands down from the charity.
Any conflict of interest will be recorded within trustee meeting minutes. Those which fall outside of meetings should be included in the next trustee meeting agenda so that the resolution can be recorded.
In cases when a conflict of interest is deliberately concealed or when a solution can not be found, trustees should raise a grievance so the merits of the argument can be considered fully. Any disciplinary action will follow the policy set out for Trustee Complaints and Grievances.