Thinking the unthinkable: 7 questions every charity Board should ask itself

7 questions every charity Board should ask itself

Looking at a charitable foundation’s recent decision to close, Sarah Loader, Consultant at Campbell Tickell, considers the key questions charitable Boards should consider about their core purpose. 

How many of us would put ourselves out of work because we didn’t think we were making the right difference to wider society? Not too many, I suspect. And how many of us would even reflect on the meaning and purpose of what we do in the first place? 

Well, the Board of major UK funder Lankelly Chase has done just this and decided to redistribute all the charity’s assets over the next five years. It has taken the bold decision to close after becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of traditional philanthropy, with its power over others approach. It will instead pass on all its assets to those who are directly undertaking social justice work across the UK. How many other charity Boards would so bravely question their own existence? 

However people feel about the outcome reached, the Board of Lankelly Chase has really challenged itself in its strategic role and has considered the fundamentals of why they exist and what they are for, and taking into account changes in society and views.

What questions should Boards ask themselves?


All Boards need to take a step back from time to time and really think about what the charity is there for and if what it is doing is still worthwhile. 

The kinds of questions a Board should ask itself are: 

  1.  Are our charitable purposes still relevant and should we still exist?
  2.  Are there other organisations that might fulfil these purposes more effectively, and should we consider partnership working or merging?
  3.  Have attitudes and values changed in a way that could impact how we operate?
  4.  Do we really understand the people we are here to help? What are their needs and can we meet them?
  5.  Do we have the information provided to us as a Board to assure us that we are meeting needs and fulfilling our purpose?
  6.  Do we understand those people who we are not yet reaching, but should?
  7.  What are the barriers to helping those people who are not accessing our services, but should? 

These questions will help Boards to focus on the charity’s impact and how it can change and improve the way it works to become even more impactful.  

Public trust 


Research carried out for the Charity Commission recently identified that the public expects charities to make the impact that they promise, and that this is a driver of public trust in charities overall. The Charity Governance Code recommends that all Boards should be clear about the charity’s purposes and ensure these are being delivered sustainably and effectively. 

Supporting your Board 


At Campbell Tickell, we can help Boards ask fundamental questions about itself. This includes everything ranging from: providing help with strategic planning; facilitating Board sessions, or carrying out Board effectiveness and governance reviews; to assessing how effectively the governance supports Boards to ask these questions and really understands its impact. 

While it can be uncomfortable and challenging, going back to the fundamentals helps to really focus on why you are still needed and if you are still making a positive difference. 


To discuss this article, or issues raised in it, feel free to email Sarah Loader on 

Campbell Tickell is an established multi-disciplinary management and recruitment consultancy, operating across the UK and Ireland, focusing on the housing, social care, local government, sport, leisure, charity and voluntary sectors. We are a values-based business and firmly place the positioning of our support and challenge on helping organisations to attain change that is well thought through, planned and sustainable. At CT, we want to help organisations create the landscape within which we ourselves would like to exist: fair, inclusive, diverse, engaged and transparent. We build from our values in how we approach all our work as a practice.

Find out more about CT’s Governance Services