Tag: governance

SORP adoption in Ireland

SORP or SORP-ish?

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Most people in the nonprofit sector are by now aware of Charities SORP.  This is a standard for financial reporting specifically devised to make the financial transactions of charities more transparent especially in terms of how and where charities have raised their funds and how the funds have been used.

Adoption of charities SORP is promoted as best practice by sector leaders and it forms one piece of the “Triple Lock” standard.  This is seen by the Charities Institute of Ireland as fundamental to restoring trust in charities (the other two elements of the triple lock are the Governance Code and the Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising).

Benefacts is the only source of information about which charities use the SORP standard in Ireland, where its adoption is still voluntary.  The Charities Regulator will be coming out soon with a mandatory financial reporting standard for Irish charities, generally expected to follow the FRS 102 Charities SORP quite closely.

By reviewing what all charities actually report in their annual published financial statements, Benefacts is able to provide a detailed picture about the emergence of higher reporting standards, which has never been available before now.

Currently, 488 organisations in the Benefacts database of Irish nonprofits say that they follow the charities SORP reporting standard. But on closer inspection, 87 of these have chosen to adopt some of the features of SORP and only 401 can in fact be seen to be fully in compliance in terms of the accounting policies as specificied by the SORP-making body authorised by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).  Benefacts has used this compliance standard as verified by the entity’s auditors as the benchmark for reporting Charities SORP compliance in the future.

Interestingly, a handful (17) of nonprofits that have adopted Charities SORP are not yet publicly registered as charities in Ireland.

In 2015, the total number of SORP reporters whose accounts are publicly accessible represented 9% of all registered charities. Here’s the list.  We’ll report on trends in SORP adoption again in our 2018 Sector Analysis Report.

Benefacts.ie is the only source of up to date analysis of all nonprofits (charities or otherwise) adopting the three standards (SORP, Governance Code and Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising). Use the facets on the left-hand side of the Benefacts search results screen to select which reporting standard you’re interested in – see image for example.

Boards of nonprofits have 27% more women than the national average!

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According to a recent survey carried out by Catalyst, an international nonprofit dedicated to progressing more inclusive workplaces, just 10% of Irish company directors are women*.  When compared to other European states, this figure is at the lower end of the scale – only Portugal has a lower percentage, at 7.9%.  Women hold 22.8% of Board positions in the UK and 29.7% in France.

We wondered – how do the boards of Irish nonprofits compare with this?

We analysed the numbers in the Benefacts Database of Irish Nonprofits, drilling down even further to uncover the gender mix not only for the sector as a whole but also for the various categories of organisations working within the sector.

Women form an average of 37% of the members of the boards of all nonprofits in Ireland – 27% above the national average**.

This average total figure varies quite significantly from sub-sector to sub-sector as you can see in the chart below.

On the boards of Social Services nonprofits, the number of woman directors – at 56% – is almost 6 times the national average for all boards.  This category includes nonprofit organisations providing emergency relief, childcare, services to support families, young people, older people, the Travelling community, homeless people and people with disabilities.

Likewise the proportion of women serving on the boards of advocacy and human rights organisations is higher than the norm, at 44%. At the other end of the scale, the representation of women on the board of recreation or sports nonprofits at 18% is closer to the national average, but 19% lower than the sectoral norm.

Later this year Benefacts will be releasing a major report providing insights into the nonprofit sector in Ireland.  For now, you can explore further governance information on this sector at benefacts.ie/explore

Leadership Profile- Nonprofits in Ireland

*http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/2014-catalyst-census-women-board-directors
** Benefacts derived its analysis of gender balance among the 55, 519 people who serve on the boards of Irish non-profit companies from public data filed by them with the Companies Registration Office, using a name-recognition algorithm derived from data published by the Central Statistics Office.

 

Financial Reporting by Irish Nonprofits

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Why have some nonprofits chosen to adopt Charities SORP as a reporting standard when it isn’t yet mandatory in Ireland? And what is Charities SORP anyway?

Financial reports are a universally accepted way of assessing the health and well being of a company.  Financial reporting standards are mandated in law (the Companies Act, 2014), and provided by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) for the UK and Ireland.

Financial reporting gives business owners an account of the use of their funds showing movements in the value of the assets, the cost of sales and any profit from activities.  Nonprofit companies also have to provide an account of the business but face unique challenges.  Rather than shareholders, they have stakeholders.  Nobody owns the assets – the nonprofit company sets out how these assets have been used to realise the best interests of the company’s beneficiaries or purposes.

Devised by a specialist Committee established by the FRC, the Statement of Recommended Practice (or SORP) for Charities provides a structured way for charities to provide an account of their business.  The Charities SORP provides information in a way that reflects the particular characteristics of charities.

Meeting the needs of stakeholders

As well as the usual measures of financial performance, the trustees of a charity need to provide a much greater level of analysis to stakeholders.  This covers:

  • How the charity deployed its resources in the course of the year to meet the needs of beneficiaries and other stakeholders (set out in the Trustees’ narrative report)
  • What were the charity’s sources of income and was any of it restricted to a particular purpose or purposes
  • How much of the charity’s funds were spent on charitable purposes, and how much on other costs (like governance overheads or fundraising costs)
  • The remuneration profile of higher-paid staff
  • How the charity is safeguarding its assets

Voluntary or  Mandatory?

Even though the SORP for charities is not yet mandatory in Ireland, it is already used by 325 Irish charities on a voluntary basis.  It is strongly recommended by lead agencies like Charities Institute Ireland, Carmichael Centre and The Wheel.

It’s widely expected that the Charities Regulator will soon mandate Charities SORP for charities in Ireland, meaning it will no longer be a voluntary standard.

For this reason, charities in Ireland should take a particular interest in the current round of consultation being led by the FRC Committee on Charities SORP, which includes three participants from Ireland.

The Committee are currently seeking views on suggestions to improve the Charities SORP – the closing date for submissions is December 11th.

For further details on financial reporting for this sector, or to learn more about individual organisations, explore our database here.

 

What price accountability in the nonprofit sector

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Benefacts’ office is very busy these days because the period between September and December is when 75% of Irish nonprofit companies are required to file their annual financial statements. That’s because most have a financial year-end of 31st December. Companies are allowed nine months to prepare and adopt their accounts, have them externally audited, and present them to an annual general meeting of their members before filing them with the Companies Registration Office, which is where Benefacts gets them – they are public documents.

Audited financial statements are an extremely important source of data in the Benefacts Database of Irish nonprofits, because they have been verified as providing a true and fair view of the organisation’s finances. Benefacts uses them to find details of a nonprofit’s income, expenditure, assets and liabilities, as well as information about the numbers of employees, payroll costs, and other information of wide public interest.

So far, our team of financial analysts have digitised the contents of the 2015 financial statements for almost 5,000 nonprofits: our plan is to release the full set for 2015 in a major update to the database which will be published in Spring 2017.

A new trend that has given us cause for concern is the high number of nonprofits – including many that rely on public finding – which have elected to provide just a summary of the financial statements, in the form of “abridged” financial statements. Others have chosen to file accounts that have not been audited. Until last year, companies limited by guarantee were not permitted to file abridged or unaudited financial statements, but when the Companies Act 2014 made the reporting threshold for smaller companies available to all companies (including not-for-profit ones), many chose to take advantage of this. This means Benefacts is not able to present an analysis of their finances, and we report this on their Benefacts listing.

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In fact, compared to this time last year, we have seen a four-fold increase in the number of nonprofits filing abridged accounts.  As we write this, in excess of 20% have filed abridged accounts. This means that the company has chosen to put only very limited information about their income and expenditure in the public domain.

More positively, at the other end of the disclosure spectrum, about 5% of all nonprofits (9% of registered charities) have voluntarily elected to adopt best practice standards in financial reporting – the charities statement of recommended practice (or SORP). See below for a list of nonprofits that adopted the Charities SORP for their 2014 financial statements.

Advocates for greater transparency in charity accounting – including the incoming CEO of the Charities Institute of Ireland Lucy Masterson and the Charities Regulator John Farrelly – have encouraged charities that receive public funding to adopt the highest standards of public disclosure in publishing their annual accounts, and in fact a recent call for submissions from the Regulatory Authority, invites interested members of the public to comment on proposed new public reporting standards. Click here to review Benefacts’ own submission.

Tune in next week when we’ll be taking a closer look at SORP and some other current initiatives in this area.

 

Nonprofits that Adopted Charities SORP in 2014