Importance of a good relationship between key finance trustees and the finance officer

2 November 2015

In most charities one, perhaps two, trustees tend to take a lead on financial issues, perhaps the Chair of Finance or Chair of the Audit Committee in larger charities that have more defined roles, or the Treasurer in a smaller charity.

Day to day finance is managed by a finance officer, or equivalent, and it is vital that the working relationship between the finance officer and key finance trustees is successful, since this encourages good communication in both directions.

The working relationship is likely to be more successful if:

  • the chemistry between the individuals is good, and both parties are completely open and honest with each other, helping to build mutual trust;
  • they have similar views on key issues concerning financial strategy. Although it is often beneficial to have contrasting views, if individuals have completely opposing views this can lead to a deterioration in the relationship;
  • the relationship does not become too familiar; it is vital that both individuals challenge each when necessary;
  • there is regular contact. It is often useful if the level of contact is agreed between both parties so expectations are clear. The level of contact required will vary according to the size and complexity of the organisation, but include regular meetings, and contact in advance of board meetings to discuss draft papers.
  • the two parties have slightly different skills. The role of the finance trustee is more strategic, and whilst the holder of this position may well be a qualified accountant, this is not absolutely necessary as long as the individual has a strong financial background.
  • the key finance position is for a fixed term, since this freshens things up and reduces the risk of over familiarity or complacency;
  • key finance trustees are involved in the recruitment of the finance officer;
  • other trustees, perhaps not so au fait with financial matters, remember that all trustees have equal responsibility for finance, and they should be prepared to challenge the Treasurer and relationship with the financial officer.

If you require assistance in this area please contact a charity specialist at your nearest location.