The Charities Regulator and the Governance Code: A Concise Overview for Non-Profits

A graphical representation of the Charities Regulator's emblem alongside the Governance Code, symbolizing the collaboration and guidelines for Non-Profits.


The Charities Regulator is the statutory authority responsible for the regulation of charities in Ireland. Their primary aim is to ensure that organisations achieve their charitable objectives with integrity, efficiency, and transparency. In order to support this, the Charities Regulator has developed the Charities Governance Code – a set of guidelines outlining the minimum standards that charities should meet in order to effectively manage and control their operations.

Understanding and implementing the Governance Code is essential for charities not only to maintain their legal responsibilities but also to build trust with donors, beneficiaries, and the general public. The code is based on six principles and includes 32 core standards, which provide a practical roadmap for organisations to evaluate their current governance processes and identify areas for improvement.

Key Takeaways

  • The Charities Regulator oversees charity operations in Ireland, ensuring that organisations meet the desired standards of integrity, efficiency, and transparency.
  • The Charities Governance Code sets out minimum governance standards, including 32 core standards, for charities to effectively manage their activities and comply with legal responsibilities.
  • Implementing the Governance Code is essential for building trust, managing risks, and maintaining transparency in charity governance.

The Charities Regulator

Legal Duties of the Charities Regulator

The Charities Regulator is an independent authority responsible for regulating the charitable sector in Ireland. Established under the Charities Act 2009, it plays a crucial role in ensuring that charities and their trustees meet the required legal and regulatory standards. The primary duties of the Charities Regulator include:

  • Maintaining a public register of charities: All charities operating in Ireland must be registered with the Charities Regulator to ensure transparency and credibility within the sector.

  • Enforcing compliance: The Charities Regulator monitors charities to ensure they follow the legal duties set out in the Charities Act 2009 and adhere to the Charities Governance Code.

  • Providing guidance: To foster effective management and governance, the Regulator offers guidance, advice, and support to charities and their trustees.

The Role of the Charities Regulator in Compliance

Compliance takes a central role in the Charities Regulator’s scope, as it works to ensure that all registered charities in Ireland meet the legal and regulatory requirements laid down by the Charities Act 2009. Some of the methods employed by the Charities Regulator in this capacity include:

  • Monitoring governance: The regulator promotes best practice within the sector and oversees the implementation of the Charities Governance Code. This code lays out the minimum standards charities should meet to effectively manage and control their organisations.

  • Investigating concerns: In cases where an issue is raised regarding a charity’s compliance with legal or regulatory standards, the Charities Regulator can conduct inquiries and investigations to protect the public and the sector’s reputation.

  • Taking enforcement actions: If a charity is found to be non-compliant, the Charities Regulator has the power to take necessary enforcement actions, ranging from revoking the charity’s registration, imposing sanctions, or initiating legal proceedings.

In summary, the Charities Regulator plays a vital role in safeguarding the charitable sector in Ireland, ensuring that organisations adhere to the legal and regulatory requirements outlined in the Charities Act 2009. Through fostering good governance practices and monitoring compliance, the regulator supports charities in achieving their objectives in an accountable and transparent manner.

Understanding the Governance Code

The Charities Governance Code, as defined by the Charities Regulator, is a set of guidelines that help charities and organisations achieve their objectives with integrity, efficiency, and accountability. Complying with this Governance Code is essential for every charity to ensure that they are managed effectively and transparently.

Core Standards and Additional Standards

The Governance Code sets forth 32 core standards that every charity should meet when implementing the principles in action. These core standards cover a range of aspects that are vital to the good governance of a charity, such as:

  • Ensuring a clear purpose and mission
  • Proper decision-making processes
  • Effective risk management
  • Maintaining financial transparency
  • Ensuring the board composition is diverse and skilled

Some charities might find it necessary to adopt additional standards that go beyond the core standards. These additional standards may be tailored to the charity’s specific needs, size, and complexity to ensure that its governance is comprehensive and effective.

Six Principles of the Governance Code

The Charities Governance Code is based on six key principles that form the foundation for all the standards included in the Code. These principles are:

  1. Advancing its charitable purpose: Charities should have a well-defined mission, be focused on the delivery of public benefit, and ensure that their resources are allocated effectively to fulfil their charitable objectives.

  2. Behaving with integrity: Charities are expected to act responsibly, ethically, and maintain the highest standards of honesty and transparency in all their activities.

  3. Leading people: To achieve effective governance, a charity must have strong leadership that guides its staff and volunteers according to its mission and values.

  4. Exercising control: Sound financial management, risk management, and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements are essential elements of the Governance Code that ensure a charity is well-controlled.

  5. Working effectively: Charities should strive to maintain a competent, diverse, and effective board that is capable of governing the charity and making decisions in its best interest.

  6. Being accountable and transparent: A charity must be open about its activities, provide accurate information to stakeholders, and be held accountable for its decisions and actions.

In conclusion, adhering to the Charities Governance Code is crucial for organisations to ensure they are operating in the best interests of their beneficiaries and stakeholders. By following the core standards and the six principles, charities can achieve a robust, transparent, and accountable governance framework.

Charities and Their Legal Responsibilities

Charity Trustees’ Roles and Duties

Charity trustees play a crucial role in overseeing the governance of a charity. They are responsible for managing and controlling the organisation’s resources and ensuring that it is run in accordance with its objectives. Their duties include planning the budget, agreeing on the short, medium, and long-term financial needs, and developing and implementing a plan to ensure the continuance and growth of the charity1.

Some key responsibilities of charity trustees include:

  • Ensuring the charity is fulfilling its purpose for the public benefit
  • Acting with due care and diligence in the best interests of the charity
  • Managing the charity’s resources responsibly2

Legal and Regulatory Requirements

Charities must comply with various legal and regulatory requirements as set out by the Charities Regulator3. The Charities Governance Code, for example, outlines the minimum standards that charity trustees should meet to effectively manage and control their charity4.

In accordance with the Charities Act 2009, there are specific legal duties that charity trustees must comply with. These include:

  • Registering the charity with the Charities Regulator
  • Ensuring proper financial controls, record keeping, and reporting are in place
  • Complying with relevant legislation, such as charity law and employment law
  • Implementing appropriate safeguarding measures for vulnerable persons and children in the charity’s care5

By adhering to these legal and regulatory requirements, charities can maintain a high standard of governance, increase transparency, and ensure that they operate with integrity to deliver the intended public benefit.


  1. Charities Regulator – Legal Duties of Charity Trustees Infographic

  2. Charities Governance Code – Charities Regulator

  3. Guidance Documents Charities Regulator

  4. Charities Governance Code 2021 Review – Charities Regulator

  5. Safeguarding Guidance for Charitable Organisations working with Vulnerable Persons – Charities Regulator

Implementing the Governance Code

The Governance Code Toolkit

The Charities Governance Code Toolkit is an essential resource provided by the Charities Regulator to help charities effectively implement the Governance Code. This toolkit contains guidance materials, templates, and practical examples that charities can utilise to ensure their compliance with the minimum standards set out in the Code. It is designed as a user-friendly platform, making it easier for charity trustees to understand the guidelines and put them into practice.

Steps to Implement the Code

  1. Understanding the Code: Begin by familiarising yourself with the Charities Governance Code, its principles, and the legal duties of charity trustees under the Charities Act 2009. This understanding is crucial for ensuring an effective implementation.

  2. Assessing your charity’s current systems and processes: Review your organisation’s existing governance structures and identify potential areas for improvement. This assessment should consider aspects such as management, control, accountability, and transparency.

  3. Developing an implementation plan: Based on the assessment, create a comprehensive plan that outlines the necessary steps to implement the Code. This plan should include timelines, responsibilities, and resources required.

  4. Induction and training: Ensure that all charity trustees receive proper induction and training on the Governance Code. This will help them understand their roles and responsibilities, as well as the importance of complying with the Code.

  5. Integrating the Code into your charity’s systems and processes: Modify your organisation’s governance structures as necessary to align with the minimum standards set out in the Code. This may involve updating policies, procedures, or governance documents.

  6. Monitoring and reviewing progress: Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your charity’s governance structures and identify any areas requiring further improvements. Following the ‘comply or explain’ principle of the Governance Code, be prepared to provide an explanation for any deviations from the Code’s guidelines.

By following these steps, charities can ensure a smooth and effective implementation of the Governance Code, ultimately creating a strong foundation for achieving their charitable objectives with integrity, efficiency, and transparency.

Documentation and Records

Maintaining Minutes and Meetings Records

It’s crucial for charity organisations to maintain accurate and detailed minutes and meeting records. Organisations should use a consistent format for documenting minutes, including the date, time, location, attendees, agenda items, and decisions made during each board meeting. This helps to ensure transparency and accountability within the organisation.

Charity boards must be diligent in recording all relevant information during meetings, such as key discussions and action items. Using a guidance note on minute taking provided by the Charities Regulator can help improve the quality and consistency of meeting minutes.

Annual Reporting Requirements

All registered charities must submit an annual report to the Charities Regulator, following their financial year-end. This annual report should demonstrate an organisation’s compliance with the Charities Governance Code, detailing how they’ve applied the six principles outlined in the code.

Along with the annual report, organisations should also submit a compliance record form that highlights their adherence to each specific standard within the code. This form should be completed in the same financial reporting period as the annual report.

In addition, charities are required to keep records of their annual reporting, board meetings, and other documentation as specified by the Charities Governance Code. Organisations should establish a secure and accessible filing system to facilitate easy retrieval and inspection of these records by the Charities Regulator or other relevant parties.

Support and Guidance

The Charities Regulator provides various resources and support for the effective implementation of the Charities Governance Code among registered charities. This section highlights the guidance notes, templates, advice, and support available to ensure a smooth adoption of the code.

Guidance Notes and Templates

The Charities Governance Code Toolkit offers Guidance Notes and Templates that are designed to assist charity trustees in the application of the six principles outlined in the code. These resources provide step-by-step instructions and templates to streamline the implementation process and ensure an easier transition to efficient governance.

Advice and Support for Registered Charities

To support registered charities in their ongoing operations, the Charities Regulator offers various guidance documents covering a wide range of topics that are crucial for effective governance. These documents address issues such as safeguarding vulnerable people and children, winding up a charity, and protecting the organisation from cybercrime. Registered charities can access this advice to enhance their overall functioning and compliance with the Charities Governance Code.

Managing Risks and Ensuring Best Practices

Risk Management and Control

Effective risk management is essential for charitable organisations to protect themselves from potential harm and achieve their objectives. Charity trustees are responsible for implementing a risk management system that reduces the likelihood of risks occurring and minimises their impact where possible 1.

To manage risks efficiently, organisations should take the following steps:

  • Identify risks: Recognise potential risks that may affect the charity’s ability to achieve its objectives.
  • Assess risks: Evaluate each risk’s likelihood and severity to prioritise them appropriately.
  • Implement controls: Develop strategies and policies to address risks and monitor their effectiveness.
  • Review and update: Regularly review the risk management process, updating it as necessary to maintain its effectiveness.

By behaving with integrity and exercising control, charities can maintain a transparent and accountable risk management system 2.

Best Practices for Charitable Organisations

Adhering to the Charities Governance Code ensures that charitable organisations are managed effectively, efficiently, and transparently. The Code provides guidance on key aspects of governance, including:

  • Clear purpose and direction: Establish a clearly defined charitable purpose and ensure all activities align with it.
  • Accountability and transparency: Maintain transparent financial records and report on the charity’s performance to stakeholders.
  • Participation and inclusion: Encourage diverse representation within the organisation to benefit from various perspectives.
  • Decision-making, risk, and control: Make informed decisions, manage risks effectively, and maintain robust controls.
  • Values and behaviours: Foster a culture that promotes ethical conduct and integrates the charity’s values into daily operations.

By following these best practices, charitable organisations can build public trust, attract donations, and operate more efficiently, ultimately achieving their objectives while upholding the highest standards of integrity 3.





Accountability and Transparency in Charity Governance

Public Display of Compliance

Accountability and transparency are crucial factors in charity governance. One way for charities to demonstrate their commitment to these principles is by publicly displaying their compliance with the Charities Governance Code. By doing so, charities can ensure that donors and beneficiaries have confidence in their operations and trust their management.

To be transparent, charities should publish relevant information on their websites, such as their annual reports, financial statements, and details about their governance structure. This display of compliance enables stakeholders to hold charities accountable for their actions and ensures that they operate with integrity.

Responsibility of Charities

Charities have a responsibility to maintain accountable and transparent governance by adhering to the standards set out in the Charities Governance Code. These standards are designed to help charity trustees effectively manage and control their organisations, fulfilling their legal duties under the Charities Act 2009.

In line with the Code, charities must establish clear objectives, regularly review their performance, and manage their resources responsibly. Furthermore, charity trustees should work together to make informed decisions in the best interests of their organisation. This involves having a deep understanding of their charity’s needs and being committed to improving the lives of their beneficiaries.

Ultimately, a strong focus on accountability and transparency in charity governance not only inspires confidence in stakeholders but also contributes to the charity’s overall effectiveness in achieving its objectives.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the Governance Code for charities?

The purpose of the Charities Governance Code is to establish minimum standards for effective management and control of charities. This ensures that charities achieve their objectives with integrity while being managed efficiently, transparently, and with accountability.

How does the Charities Regulator enforce the Charities Act 2009?

The Charities Regulator enforces the Charities Act 2009 by supervising and monitoring the compliance of registered charities. The regulator has the authority to take appropriate actions if non-compliance is identified, such as issuing warnings, suspensions, or even removing charity trustees.

What are the key principles outlined in the charity governance code?

The key principles outlined in the charity governance code include advancing charitable purposes, behaving with integrity, conducting effective management and oversight, ensuring transparency, and protecting the charity’s reputation and assets.

How do the regulations differ for State bodies and charities?

State bodies and registered charities operate differently, as they are subject to distinct regulatory frameworks and governance structures. State bodies are usually accountable to specific government departments and audited by government agencies, while registered charities are accountable to the Charities Regulator and require compliance with the Charities Act 2009.

What is the role of trustee declaration in charity governance?

Trustee declarations play a crucial role in charity governance as they demonstrate a commitment by the charity trustees to adhere to the requirements of the Charities Act 2009. The declarations confirm that trustees understand their legal responsibilities and abide by the principles outlined in the Charities Governance Code.

How can a charity create a compliant governing document?

A charity can create a compliant governing document by developing a concise and clear document that outlines the organisation’s structure, its objectives, and the rules governing its operations. This document should be in line with the legal framework and guidance provided by the Charities Regulator to ensure compliance with the Charities Act 2009 and the Charities Governance Code.


Related Articles