David Buckle, partner at DMB Law, gave a short presentation focused on the situation in the UK, where over many decades charitable organisations have been becoming increasing professional and well-regulated. He said that key to a properly structured charity was the clarity of its objectives – vision, mission and values, and how power is distributed within its management and board.
Mr Buckle, an expert on corporate governance, said that many lessons had been learned from the financial crisis in terms of transparency. Communicating effectively and consistently with stakeholders was an extremely important part of the work of charities, he said. Mr Buckle also outlined the regulatory regime in the UK and the role of the Charities Commission.
Elżbieta Żórawska of PwC presented guidelines for the financial governance of charities. She said that the public sector, donors and – importantly – the EU – checks the conditions of charities in the same way as they would check a company one would want to invest in. Charities need to demonstrate that they are trustworthy, stable and transparent, and show that as well as being financially secure, they are environmentally and socially responsible.
Participants had the opportunity to present their organisations, and mention issues facing them. There was widespread criticism of the 1% tax-to-charity law, which gives people the impression that they've done their bit for charity, while the money is actually given to the charity by the government. This makes charities overly dependent on the state, and yet there is no desire to change.
The BPCC's chief advisor Michael Dembinski pointed out that while the average British citizen earns around three times more than the average Pole, per capita Brits give 10 times more to charity. This is, he said, also the result of a tradition of charitable donation as well as the effectiveness of fund-raising.
After each participant had the chance to present the charities they represented, the speakers were joined by Tomasz Perkowski, vice-president of the Foundation for Polish Science and a member of the Forum Darczyńców (donors' forum), for a spirited discussion about the way that fund-raisers and charity managers should be remunerated. The return on investment on donors' money was discussed, as was the optimal level of charities' administration costs, and how would be received by the Polish public.