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Working in the voluntary sector
Working in the voluntary sector

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1 Finance, rules and regulations

A tablet and mobile phone displaying financial information
Figure 1 Thinking about finance

Whatever industry or sector you work in, you may be required to handle financial information at some point – whether it is working out the costs of equipment or funding needs, paying staff or volunteer expenses, or spending money on stationery or marketing materials.

If you are a volunteer responsible for one aspect of the organisation’s work, perhaps maintaining a garden or providing refreshments, you could be asked to work out a small budget. Alternatively, you may need to make a claim against a budget, so it is also useful to know where the money comes from, who decides what the budget is, and why there might be difficulties in paying for things.

Many people are probably accustomed to the phrase ‘end of the financial year’, which can mean departments rushing to do extra spending in order to use up their allocated budget or to say no to any further spending because they have already used up their funds.

Many elements of managing financial information may appear to be very focused on individual departments, projects and organisations, but wider issues of transparency and accountability are important. In other words, who is responsible for checking that organisations are operating ethically and spending income appropriately?

The voluntary sector is regulated, although this mainly applies to organisations that are registered charities. Those that are registered are subject to the Charities Act 2011 (England and Wales); The Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005; and the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 and Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2013.

Registration and regulation of charities is done by the Charity Commission in England and Wales; the Charity Commission in Northern Ireland; and in Scotland by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR). Fundraising by charities is also subject to regulation, overseen by the Fundraising Regulator in England and Wales. The arrangements for Northern Ireland and Scotland were reviewed during 2016.