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Governance reviews

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How and why organisations should conduct governance reviews.

A governance review is an opportunity to reflect on a charity’s governance arrangements.

For example, a review might update a charity’s governance arrangements to account for changes in the organisation’s size. A review is also a useful means of ensuring trustees keep up with latest best practice or changes in the law.

It is good practice for trustees to carry out some form of governance review annually on their own and with external assistance every 3 to 5 years. 

A governance review can cover a number of different areas. It might look at the effectiveness of the board’s work – for example, its meetings, approach to recruitment of trustees or trustee induction programme. It might also review the charity’s formal governance arrangements – for example, the size of the board, election methods or sub-committee structures.

The format of a governance review can also vary depending on the needs of the charity and the time and resources available. A review might take place as:

  • A discussion as part of a board meeting or away day
  • A self-assessment questionnaire completed by each board member – the results are collated and form the basis of a report and discussion
  • A review of documentation, such as codes of conduct, terms of reference or board policies
  • A formal consultation with trustees and some ‘stakeholders’ – for example, by holding interviews or focus group meetings

If trustees are organising a large governance review, it might help to establish a working group. The working group should include a mix of trustees and (where employed) staff and might also involve an outside advisor to provide expert input and assistance.

Some charities find it useful to start off with an existing set of good governance principles, like the Code of Governance.

Using an existing set of principles can help give trustees a comparison or benchmark to work from. For example, a board discussion at an away day or a board questionnaire could be organised around the seven principles in the Code of Governance.

Some charities carry out a governance review as part of a quality system. This has the advantage of linking a governance review into a wider review of the quality of a charity’s systems and ways of working.

Find out more


Page last edited May 30, 2019

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