Insurance For Your Organization

Insurance is something we need. We sometimes resent having to pay it, and we certainly never want to claim – it will mean something has gone wrong and the trouble it causes can be a nightmare. But VCSE organizations must ensure that they obtains adequate cover for the work it undertakes. Be aware of what could go wrong and think about how likely it is to happen and how expensive it could be.

Old Legal Document

Here are some of the kinds of insurance you many need.

Public Liability Insurance

Here, “public” means virtually everyone except the organisation’s employees. The policy may or may not include volunteers (check the small print). Public liability insurance covers personal injury or property damage caused by the organisation’s negligence or failure to comply with statutory duties. It could cover, for example, claims arising from:

  • a worker breaking client’s property while visiting the client at home
  • theft of a service user’s property from a community centre
  • someone who has booked a room in your premises being injured
  • a child injured on faulty play equipment

Employers Liability Insurance

If the organisation employs staff, it has a statutory duty (you must have this) to insure against claims by workers for illness, injury or disease caused by an employer’s negligence or breach of duty. There is a minimum statutory cover for this insurance cover. It is a legal requirement that the Employers Liability Insurance Certificate is prominently displayed in the workplace and that expired certificates are kept for 40 years.

Buildings Insurance

If the organisation leases a building it may be responsible for insuring the premises for the costs of rebuilding. If it owns the building, it does not by law have to insure the premises. However, the trustees of a registered charity, who have a statutory duty to safeguard the charity’s assets, could be considered to be in dereliction of their duty if they did not insure the buildings they own. The costs of rebuilding, including all professional fees such as the legal fees, and the cost of temporary accommodation during re-building should be covered.

Road Traffic Insurance

Any organisation that has a vehicle on the road must insure the driver(s) against third party risks (injury or death caused to other road users). Third party fire and theft or fully comprehensive insurance will give much better cover. An organisation must also ensure that vehicles owned by employees or volunteers are adequately covered if they are to be used for work purposes.

Plate Glass Windows

If the organisation leases property that has a shop front it may need special insurance to cover breakage either by vandals or accident.

Professional Indemnity Insurance

If the organisation provides advice or information to the general public this type of policy gives cover against any claims resulting from wrong advice. It can be extended to cover slander or libel which may be essential for campaigning organisations.

Contents Insurance

This gives cover against theft or damage, including fire.

  • This type of cover may require you to comply with the insurer’s requests for secure locks, safes, burglar alarms, etc. to be installed to the premises.
  • If volunteers have access to equipment and if your premises or equipment are shared with any other organisation you should inform the insurer.
  • You should keep an up-to-date list of the ‘contents’ which you consider are covered and review the amount insured annually.
  • Insuring property for less than its real value could invalidate the cover or mean that any claim will only be partially accepted.

All Risks Insurance

This insurance extends Contents Insurance to cover property which is used away from the organisation’s main base.

Accidental Damage

This insurance is usually expensive, as it covers accidental damage to property. If the organisation shares equipment with anyone else it must tell the insurer. (It may be cheaper to hire expensive equipment such as video cameras.)

Equipment Damage and Breakdown

If your organisation has highly technical equipment such as computers, and depends heavily on them, you can insure them against damage and breakdown.

Accident and Medical Insurance

An organisation can insure against staff being off sick, including the cost of paying out sick pay. Some policies will also cover for staff sustaining injuries whilst as work.

Trustee Liability Insurance

Management Committees members may wish to have insurance cover for protection against personal claims against them. No insurance policy will give cover for dishonesty or fraud, nor will it affect the legal duty of trustees to “act in good faith, with reasonable care” for the organisation. If the organisation is a registered charity it needs the approval of the Charity Commissioners before paying for Trustee Liability Insurance (this permission is included in some of the more recent governing documents). It is important to keep the risk of personal liability in proportion. Very few trustees who have acted honestly suffer financial loss as a result of their trusteeship.

As always the case with something complex it is best to talk to an expert. You will be able to talk abut your organization and what it does so that you have the right amount of protection.

Free Office Software

There cannot be many of us who do not like a bargain. Whether it is in our personal or in our professional lives getting something that is cheap or free is always satisfying.

One thing that most of us need in our work in this day and age is office software. By this I mean the word processor, spread sheet, presentation, desk top publishing, drawing and email handing applications. For many, if not most, this means Microsoft Office software. But there are alternatives available. I have stuck to just a couple of examples that operate from your computer (rather than online programmes), there are many out there and with a little bit of research you will be able to find something you like.

Paper, pen and watch.

First is LibreOffice which is open source software. This means that in addition to being free (though they welcome donations), here the code used to write the program (effectively the program itself) is available too, so anybody that wants to can work on improving it. It’s constantly being honed and updated, but tech support is often limited as there are no large companies backing it up. LibreOffice includes;

  • Writer: A word processor, it’s the equivalent of Microsoft Word.
  • Calc: A spreadsheet program, its equivalent of Excel.
  • Impress: Presentation software, it’s the equivalent of Microsoft PowerPoint.
  • Base: A database, it’s the equivalent of Microsoft Access.
  • Draw: A design program, especially useful for flowcharts.
  • Math: A simple tool for equations.
  • Charts: A program for creating and embedding charts and graphs.

Find LibreOffice at https://www.libreoffice.org.

Another open source programme is OxygenOffice. This used to be OpenOffice and has all of the above tools. Find OxygenOffice at http://www.oxygenofficepro.com\

Most free office software is compatible with Microsoft and you can set the programme to save by default to its format. I have used OpenOffice and currently I use LibreOffice (and gave a £10 donation) and find it an excellent alternative. I do not feel as if I am missing out on anything after having used Microsoft Office for many years.

An email client is a programme, like Outlook, that talks to your email and puts the results onto your computer rather than using webmail when you log onto the email providers website.

There are free alternatives for email clients such as Mozilla Thunderbird (see https://www.thunderbird.net/en-GB/) that can organize multiple email accounts and has a calendar included. I have used this for a few years now and no problems thus far. As with anything when you first use it you can find yourself frustrated that things are not done in the same way as what you are accustomed to, but with time you get to know the ins and outs of a new programme.

Another is Opera Mail (see https://www.opera.com/) I have not used this but have read some good reviews.

Again there are many more out there and a bit of research will you find out what is going to be suitable for you. So open up your browser (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera – yes, there are many of these) and type in free office software or free email client and see what come up.

Politics & Charities

When registering as a charity there is a part of the process where a declaration is made that the organization is not about promoting political opinion. This is quite clear, charities are charities and political parties are political parties. It is true that we all have opinions about the world we live in and we are free to voice them. However to be registered charity means we sign up to being apolitical.

All well and clear you would think. Some charities do have to tread a fine line when they are promoting certain points of view and mostly they manage this without falling foul of the Charity Commission. However, on the 6 February 2019 published a formal legal warning against the Institute of Economic Affairs after finding that its trustees breached charity law in relation to a publication about a key government policy (Brexit).

Briefly, it was found though their charitable aims are education they published a biased work by inviting only people with a certain view to contribute with no opposing side to the question. (The full report can be found here.)

It is a warning to charities to step carefully if there are charities and given the importance of the message I am surprised it did not merit a mention in other media.

Monitoring & Evaluation Just Won’t Go Away

Like many things in life there are times when things seem too complicated but the reality is that they are not. Monitoring and evaluation is one of those things that not-for-profits view with dread. Perhaps there are too many syllables for something that is simple and useful.

Monitoring

This is counting what you do.

You count the amounts: how many people do your see? where do they live? how many sessions with lots of people do you put on? how old were the people you saw? This is quantitative information.

Next you gather the qualitative information about your services: what did people think about what you did (good, satisfied, ok, dissatisfied, terrible)? how do they feel after you have worked with them?

Evaluation

This is taking this information and using it to find out if you are doing what you said you were going to do, how well you are doing it.

Monitoring and evaluation is not about finding fault with people or making them feel bad. It is about keeping track of what you have done for yourselves as a management tool and for possibly for your funders to show that you are delivering what you said you would. It is also provides information for funding applications and annual reports as you can show how good you are and finally to keep your staff informed – ‘hey look at all the great things we have done!’.

Plan Your Monitoring

Think about what it is you need to count and how you can count it.

Quantitative examples could be; we are delivering across Walsall – if we collect postcodes then we will know we are reaching all the areas we should; we are offering support to those adults with mental health problems – we will collect ages, genders, ethnicity to see that we are reaching as wide a range of people as we should; we need to reach 350 people in a year – we will count numbers and look at them once a fortnight to see that we are on target (7 per week).

Qualitative examples could be; we must have 80% of people who have seen us as being satisfied or better with our help – we ask people if they feel good, satisfied, ok, dissatisfied, terrible about us; we must have 60% of people say they are feeling less stressed – we ask if they compare how stressed they were before do they feel worse, the same or better.

You can get the information from questionnaires, talking to people, putting dots onto a chart. The simpler the better as people appreciate this. If you can make it fun then all the better. Some feedback we can get by observation and we do not have to ask as we can see they feel more confident and interact more with others. Remember, it does not have to be complicated.

When designing your monitoring remember to talk to everyone, your staff, volunteers and clients. They will have good ideas about what and how information needs collecting. And they are the ones who are going to be involved.

There are tools out there to help you with this that do not cost a fortune. A spreadsheet will help you keep track of your data and quickent the counting – there are even free spreadsheet programmes such as LibreOffice Calc so you do not have to buy Microsoft Office let alone an expensive customer relationship manager system.

Evaluation

Once you have collected your information then ask questions of it. Look at what you had planned with your outputs (services) and outcomes (the difference you wanted to make).

Don’t forget to talk to your staff and volunteers – what did they think about the last six months (for example), what could be done better? what are the problems they found the most difficult?

Once this process is complete you will have information that; will help you plan; can be used for publicity; can impress future funders; motivate staff and volunteers.

Monitoring and evaluation will take time but is definitely not a waste of time.

 

If you want to discuss help with this then contact me learn more.

On-line Information About Your Organization

The joy of the internet for many of us is the wealth of information that is available at a free or reasonable cost. With anyone able to publish anything (witness this blog) with few barriers there is someone, somewhere in the world who want to share opinions or facts with the rest of the world. A problem muttered is that with anybody being able to write large across the ether, how are we to know what is correct and what is not? Something we did not have in the good old days of print. Well, I would beg to differ on this last point, print is still paid for by someone and their opinion can influence. Newspapers and research are prime examples of this. But, most people are quite sincere in their wanting to put facts, figures and yes, points of view out there, so let us have faith and check our sources.

I mention the above because I was recently looking at an organizations accounts, available from the Charity CC logo (17-06-18)Commission and discovered that they had not filed their accounts for the last four years on time. Worse were the legends writ large in red such as ‘433 days overdue‘. Many funders will not give money to any other type of organization than those registered with the Charity Commission for the very simple reason that they know that the governing document has been approved and that the accounts of the organization are open to scrutiny. Given that following the closure of the financial year there are ten months to submit accounts it is a telling indication of a charity’s efficiency, efficacy and fitness for purpose when those accounts are late (and worse consistently), let alone with constant deficits. Funders do not look kindly on these circumstances. Note that similar records are available at Companies House.

Another point is your web site, we all want one and can have one. It is our shop front and projects the image we want it to. Thus, out of date information can be taken to be that the organization could be not as professional as it could be. I am not suggesting that we all go out and pay thousands of pounds for web sites, resources are thin (note that this website is hosted by WordPress and written and edited by Blue Key). But it does pay to think about your website and make sure that you have the resources to keep it up to date and looking good: informative, illustrative and part of your ‘appearance’ – giving confidence to your stakeholders and clients in your expertise and professionalism.

Data Protection Warning

This week the Charity Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office have issued a joint warning over two charities that did not fulfil their legal committement storing and using information (see Charity Commission statement). Groups can be caught up in their day to day operation and can forget that have repsoniblities to store and use data appropriateley.

As a side note I have asked over the years many a small organization about how they back up their information such as membership lists, accounts and so on and met with a blank stare. Computers do fail and hard drives do expire with time and to replace the data can be difficult or impossible, with external memory being inexpensive nowadays it is a simple matter to save those vital records using simple and free software.