You may have read in The Cat magazine that Cats Protection plans to make alterations to the current Rules in respect of the Advisory Council; these plans follow a consultation with Advisory Council on ways to improve the way in which the charity benefits from the knowledge and experience of its many volunteers. This note explains the background to the planned changes.
What are the proposed alterations to the Rules?
Cats Protection has nine Trustees and, at present, five members of the Advisory Council are elected by the Advisory Council onto the Board of Trustees and four Trustees are appointed by the Trustee Board. It is proposed that, in future, all Trustees will be selected for appointment to the Board by a Nominations Committee and, if successful, will be appointed to the Board by the Board.
Why is this change being proposed?
- As a matter of good governance, the Trustees and current members of Advisory Council want to ensure that the Board of Trustees has the right blend of skills and attributes required, both now and in the future, to govern the charity in the most effective way to help cats now and in the future
- The charity has, for many years, struggled to attract candidates for the Advisory Council whenever vacancies arise and not all members of Advisory Council wish to go onto become Trustees; this limits the pool of potential Trustees for the future and poses a governance risk to the charity
- In line with good governance practice, the terms of office for Trustees were reduced a few years ago from three terms of five years to three terms of three years with the consequence that a number of current Trustees are due to reach the end of their respective terms of office in 2021; current Advisory Council members have confirmed that there is limited interest in filling these vacancies
- This proposal was arrived at following consultation with the Advisory Council and by applying the principles set out in the Charity Commission’s Charity Governance Code
How will the Nominations Committee ensure that those selected for appointment to the Board really understand Cats Protection and cats?
- The Nominations Committee will select Trustees who meet clearly defined criteria. It will, for example, be a requirement that at least four Trustees will have significant current/recent experience of volunteering for Cats Protection. At least two of these potential Trustees will have experience of volunteering at branches and at least one will have experience of volunteering elsewhere in the charity
- The Nominations Committee will consist of: three existing Trustees; up to two Cats Protection additional volunteers (from Connect – see proposal 2); and an independent adviser
It is proposed that the Advisory Council is replaced by a new body called Connect. Connect will be a broader based volunteer consultative body which forms part of the charity’s Connecting for Cats programme which will help to ensure that the charity’s volunteers have a say in important issues for the charity.
Why is this change being proposed?
- Members of the current Advisory Council have expressed some dissatisfaction with the current Advisory Council format, meeting structure and agenda
- At present, Advisory Council consists of 13 members of Advisory Council and the nine Trustees. All but one of the current 13 members of Advisory Council comes from a branch background. The aim now is to be as inclusive as possible so that volunteers in other areas of the charity’s activities, such as at shops and centres, will also have a voice and a forum in which to put their points of view; Connect will consist of up to 20 volunteers representing a range of volunteer roles
- Currently, Advisory Council meetings take place using a traditional large table format involving, in many cases, over 30 people after taking into account members of staff present. This format can be a barrier to wide participation at meetings; Connect meetings will be facilitated in a workshop format
- Advisory Council members have said that the agendas for their meetings feel random and say that the outcomes for each meeting are unclear; Connect’s agenda will be an integral part of the charity’s strategic consultation programme with clear feedback on outcomes
- Candidates for Advisory Council are, at present, elected to the Advisory Council by members of Cats Protection present and entitled to vote at the AGM. Few members of the charity attend the AGM each year which means that, in practice, candidates are elected by a very small percentage of the of the charity’s membership and if a candidate is not elected, or fails to get re-elected, at an AGM, the experience can be humiliating and upsetting; those wishing to be appointed as Connect members will simply submit an application and will be interviewed and selected by the Nominations Committee to ensure that Connect has a range of roles and inputs
When will these changes happen?
Following the approval of these changes to the Rules at the AGM we will move forward to introduce the changes immediately. Opportunities to apply to become members of Connect will be advertised in June and Trustee opportunities will be advertised when vacancies arise on the Board.