Visionary Trustee Briefing – December 2017

Visionary Trustee Briefing – December 2017


  • Visionary News and Activity – updates from across the Visionary network
  • Charity Governance – information relevant to trustees
  • Sector News – key items relevant to the sight loss sector
  • Events – summary of events relevant to trustees

Visionary News and Activity

Visionary Annual Conference, 1 and 2 November 2017, Birmingham

This year’s conference theme was Unlocking Potential, Creating Value – recognising that local sight loss charities make a significant difference to the lives of the people they support. Two trustee workshops were held:

1 – How to be an effective trustee – this workshop covered topics such as What is a trustee? What are the basic duties? What does the Charity Commission expect? What issues on the horizon should trustees be looking out for?

The session was led by Leon Ward – an experienced trustee himself, and the slides associated with his session are available in the Trustee Section of the Knowledge Hub (see below for details).

2 – Trustee advice forum and panel Q & A – this workshop was quite interactive, with attendees sharing questions and queries regarding their own experiences – both as trustees and as employed staff working with trustees.

Facilitated by Andy Haynes (Visionary) and Leon Ward, the session dealt with a range of trustee issues raised by both trustees and staff members. Issues such as mergers, confidentiality issues with trustees and levels of trustee and staff member interaction were discussed.

At the conference as a whole, we noticed a distinct increase in the number of Chairs and trustees of local sight loss organisations attending. Many chose to attend workshops other than the specific trustee workshops which we took as a positive sign, as trustees were clearly interested in the development of services their organisations were delivering.

Visionary team changes

It has been a busy time recently at Visionary and we want to share some updates with you on the staffing front as we will be managing a bit of change in the team over the next few months, all for good reasons, the details of which can be accessed on our website.

In each Trustee Briefing we focus upon a particular activity Visionary has been undertaking with members. In this briefing we are focusing on General Data Protection Regulation – GDPR.

Every organisation that processes personal data must be compliant with new GDPR rules on 25 May 2018 and this includes charities and voluntary organisations like local sight loss organisations. Getting to grips with GDPR can be daunting and it can be difficult to know where to start.

As a trustee you should be aware by now of what your local sight loss organisation is doing about preparing for GDPR compliance. If they haven’t already, we recommend that you ask your management team to present to the board of trustees on how they are preparing for GDPR and the plans to be compliant from 25 May 2018.

Visionary are developing a range of support activities for our members. There is a Date Protection page on our website which contains details of useful guides and resources as well as updates on what we are doing to support members. In the members’ only area of the website, we are building a GDPR resource bank within the Policies and Procedures section. Speak to your organisation’s leader/CEO and they will be able to advise you on how to access this area of the website should you wish to.

If you have any concerns or queries at all about GDPR and your organisations response, place contact us at or 020 8090 9264.


Charity Governance

Board structure

Does your board have individual trustees who are clearly identified as the Chair, Vice Chair or Treasurer?  It is important that as a board some trustees hold such positions.

The Chair should meet regularly (suggested monthly) with the CEO or Leader of the organisation and the Treasurer should meet regularly (suggested quarterly as a minimum) with those involved in the financial management of the organisation.

As trustees you are all equally responsible for how well your organisation is being run and to do so you need to ensure that you all feel you know enough about what your organisation is doing and how well it is doing it.  The Chair, Vice Chair and Treasurer can play key roles in helping share such information at board meetings with the other trustees.

On a very practical point, it is worth ensuring that all trustees have contact details for all other trustees. This ensures that as a board you can quickly contact each other should you need to do so.  There have been a couple of instances recently with Visionary members where urgent communication has been required amongst trustees and this was hampered by a lack of shared contact information.

Staff, Volunteer and Board relationships

If your organisation employs staff or uses volunteers, then other than the CEO/Leader, how well do you know those involved in working for your organisation?

Inviting staff/volunteers to attend board meetings for the whole meeting or just to present upon projects or activities they have been leading on is a really good way to get a good understanding of how your organisation is doing. It is also a good development opportunity for the volunteers/staff involved.

Some organisations promote regular opportunities for trustees to join in with staff/volunteer meetings or other events to help strengthen the link between with trustees.

Charity Finance – reporting  

Most local sight loss organisations have a financial year that runs to the end of March (1 April to 31 March)l. Not everyone does, so check what your organisation’s financial year is if you don’t know.

If your organisation’s financial year does run to the end of March then, by now, the board should have reviewed the  accounts for the organisation (which will likely have been the subject of an Independent Examination or an Audit except for the smallest of organisations) and approved them so that they can be submitted to the appropriate regulatory body.  The size of your organisation, defined by how much income and expenditure you have, determines what sort of accounts and reporting you need to do. Your Chair and Treasurer should be able to confirm these details or you can visit the Charity reporting and accounting section of the Charity Commission website for further details.

Along with your accounts, all charities are required to prepare a trustees’ annual report commenting on the activity and main achievements of your organisation.  Make sure you are aware of the filing requirements with the Charity Commission and Companies House for your organisation – this will again be driven by size and nature of the charity. Discuss this at your board meeting and/or with your CEO/Leader.
Charity Finance – business planning

If your organisation does run its financial year to the end of March then, during the January to March period, your organisation should be very focused upon business and financial planning for the next 12 months i.e. April 2018 to March 2019.

Regardless of the size of your organisation, as a board you should expect to develop a business plan which outlines what you intend to do for the next 12 months to support people living with sight loss, how much that will cost and where the money will come from to pay for it.

It is quite common for charities when writing their business plan and beginning a new financial year to not have all the money in place that they need to fund themselves. As a minimum, you should have details of how much money you need and a plan of how you are going to raise those funds.  Such a plan is often called an “income generation strategy or plan”.

If you, any of the other trustees or your organisation’s CEO/Leader would like to discuss business planning or income generation strategies, then please contact Andy Haynes – Visionary Head of Income Development – – 07812 060878.

Free legal advice for full Visionary members and their trustees

We offer a FREE confidential legal advice helpline run in conjunction with the Charities team at Russell-Cooke Solicitors .

Call 020 382 67538 and a qualified member of the Russell-Cooke team will provide up to 15 mins of legal advice.  The service is entirely confidential, though you will be asked to provide some basic details so that they can confirm your membership of Visionary.

We are aware of a number of people who have called the legal advice helpline and the feedback has been unanimously positive.

The Charities team at Russell-Cooke Solicitors also regularly issues a range of Charity “E-updates” – the most recent ones can be accessed by clicking here and you can sign up to receive them directly by registering here.


Sector News

RNIB – new Chair and CEO

RNIB appoints new Chair – Eleanor Southwood has now taken over as Chair of Trustees at RNIB. Ellie has been a board member at RNIB since 2010 and shortly after taking over as Chair Ellie spoke at the Visionary Annual Conference in November and made a point of emphasising that the RNIB valued the work undertaken by local sight loss organisations and was looking forward to working in greater partnership with them.

RNIB has also recently appointed Sally Harvey as its new CEO.  Sally had been interim CEO since the previous CEO left. Alison Oliver, Visionary CEO, has recently met with Sally and we continue to ensure that there is a regular and constructive dialogue with both Sally and other senior management team members at RNIB.

RNIB’s change programme is ongoing and Visionary members continue to highlight areas of concern and other issues that this activity causes for local sight loss organisations. Via the Visionary regional meetings and network we regularly reach out to Visionary members to share these concerns with us and to talk about how we can all better work together. Visionary Senior Management Team (SMT) continues to discuss these issues with RNIB and the response from RNIB has been very positive. We have also established a communications route for an on-going dialogue.


Visionary Briefing 

The main briefing is a fortnightly e-newsletter which is Visionary’s main way of communicating with members and summarises key items of interest to Visionary members. Your organisation’s leader/Chief Officer and other staff should already receive it. Check with them that they do. Also feel free to sign up yourself, if you are not already receiving it, by sending an email to



Early in the New Year we will be publishing details of the annual Visionary Leadership Conferences – these are held at venues across the UK to provide members and those involved in running them the best opportunity to attend.

Details of Visionary events can be found on our website at Visionary Events.


Found this useful?

If you have feedback, especially regarding areas that we could provide you with more support on, then please contact us at or 020 8090 9264.