COVID-19: keeping your group running

The cancellation of events and regular music activities for our members is causing extra work, new worries and some uncharted waters to navigate. Our Coronavirus blog gives an overview of the things you need to consider in the light of COVID-19, and this page provides more detail on how to handle cancelled activities and keep your group moving in these unprecedented times.

Keeping your group running

Your normal activities might have stopped but that doesn’t mean the organisation has stopped. 

The people running the group should be communicating about how you are handling COVID-19 crisis. Two key areas are:  

  • Dealing with cancellations and all the administrative work that comes out of that 
  • Thinking about the long-term future of your group 

Face to face meetings are out of the question – but there are lots of online solutions for virtual meetings. Here at Making Music, and many other places, we use Zoom. There is a free version that allows you to have as many meetings as you want with multiple guests – but with a limit of 40 minutes per meeting. There are lots of other platforms available too of course – and most come with good user guides to help people get used to them. 

Online meetings are a different beast to physical ones – so it is worth having a little think about how to run them. This blog from a company we work with has some tips.

Online platforms do require an internet connection and a device to access it which not everyone has (althgouh some allow you to dial in for sound only using a normal phone connection). There are phone specific solutions too – PowWowNow for example allows people to just call from landline or mobile – this does have a cost implication for those making the call, which could be claimed as an expense, but it’s free for the organiser or host of the call. 

Note for Charities: your governing document might not allow for electronic meetings – but regulators are being flexible – see charity section below.  

Keeping group activities going 

Most of your normal activities will no longer be possible - but lots of things are. We know taking care of the practical might be all you have capacity for, but if you do have a chance to think about how you can keep your group together, even just socially if not musically, it could really help you keep momentum and pick up where you left off when things settle down and are back to normal. See our stay connected resource for more information

Recruitment – this might sound counter intuitive, and we understand that it will not be a priority, but there might be some recruitment opportunities at the end of all this. Music group activity and people connecting online is getting a lot of press coverage. When people emerge into the world again, they might be looking to try new things – and music could be on their list. Without being cynical, finding a way to take advantage of and prepare for that could help your group get back on its feet. If any committee members have time, thinking about current opportunities for raising your profile might help. One thing to consider is telling the world about what you are doing – local media outlets are keen to share good news stories – so if your group has a good story, get the word out there. You could also take the opportunity to review your brand and prepare marketing messages and materials ready for when you start up again.

Time and capacity

Your group might be finding that people’s availability to help keep things running is variable. As a result things might not move as quickly as expected, and it could feel like not everyone is pulling in the same direction or with the same enthusiasm.

It’s important to remember that lockdown means different things for different people: some may be busier than usual with work or supporting family, others may need to focus on looking after their own mental and physical health. This is an unprecedented and challenging situation and everyone’s response is different.

However, if the reduction in some people’s time commitment is having an impact on your group, discuss it with them. Open, honest and supportive conversations can be difficult, but are the best way to find out what may be going on, resolve the issues, and find a good way forward that supports both the person and the group (now and in the medium to long term).

You could ask everyone what their challenges and worries are, and what time and capacity they have, to build a realistic picture of what people can do. Where people are struggling, acknowledge their challenges and offer some ways to help:

  • Supporting on tasks – with so much change and things moving online people might be dealing with new things. A bit of extra support might be all they need to help get them started.
  • Reducing the load – they may have too many things on, feel overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. Taking a few things off their plate might be all that is needed.
  • Stepping down temporarily – it might be a weight off their shoulders they will be glad of. Making it clear that it is temporary, perhaps deciding a review point, is a good idea as they may not want to lose their role completely.

Increasing capacity

If the existing committee is struggling for time you could consider asking other people to help. Even if you have enough hands on deck, exploring options for additional help now will ensure you are ready if that situation changes.

You could consider appointing people to ‘vice’ positions and sharing knowledge of process or systems more widely among the committee members. Your membership might also include people who can help with the new knowledge and expertise you’re looking for, for instance with moving activities online.

We know recruiting new committee members can be easier said than done, but given the circumstances you might find your members are willing to help, indeed some may have spare time and would be glad of the challenge.

Those who help could do so as volunteers, rather than in an official capacity (e.g. charity trustee), but it is important to be clear about which role is being taken on and where decision making lies. If you are looking to appoint formal positions make sure you do so in line with your governing document and rules. (see charity sections below).

You can only do what you can do

While many groups have started new online activities, for others the most realistic option, both financially and in terms of capacity, is to deal with the immediate fallout, batten down the hatches and look to start again when they can.

There is nothing wrong with this, coming through relatively unscathed and being able to start up again would be no small achievement. If you are in that position the one thing we encourage you to do is communicate with your members. It doesn’t have to be often or regular or much, but saying hello somehow, and keeping them updated, will mean that when you can start up it’s a little easier.

See also: Planning for the future: finance

 

Cancelling events 

Under the current COVID-19 rules it has become clear that events simply cannot happen, and so groups are rightly cancelling them. This will obviously have financial implications.

Insurance:  Making Music Silver, Gold, Brass, and some Custom insurance policies include event cancellation cover. However, this cover does not include communicable diseases, so cancellations due to COVID 19 are not covered, as such no losses are recoverable. This is not affected by any government advice or guidance.  This is standard for the insurance industry, and very few policies include it. If you have any questions about your cover please contact us

We are sure groups are already looking at what costs they have lost and where they can recoup others. It is likely you will not have to meet financial obligations of many of your agreements in relation to events - see the separate guidance on contracts for more information on this. 

Postpone – it is worth considering if you can postpone an event rather than cancel. This will mean in many cases no money needs to change hands right now – and will mean that suppliers (venues etc) have bookings and business lined up for later in the year – which they may be glad of. For your members it will also show a positive sign that you fully intend for the show to go on.

See also:

Ticket refunds

Cancelled events: If you are cancelling you should offer refunds. We know lots of groups have offered refunds but asked audiences if they might donate the price of the ticket instead of receiving a refund. We understand many ticket holders are very sympathetic to this. You might be able to claim Gift Aid on that donation too (see below).

If you are using an online ticketing platform they might be offering automatic refunds for cancelled events. In this case you will have to find a different way for audiences’ members to donate such as via an online donation platform or through your own website. 

Postponed events: for rescheduled events you don’t have to offer a refund, you can carry the booking forward to the new time and date. If this is not convenient for the audience member, then you should offer a refund instead, and some people might still ask for refunds regardless, especially if the coronavirus situation has left them in a financially difficult position.

Online ticketing platform: if you use a platform check what their policy is and how they are handling. refunds for cancelled events, postponements and the fees you pay to them. See below for some information from two platforms we work with and know members use:

Gift Aid: if ticketholder does agree to donate the value of their ticket you can claim Gift Aid on that donation. Previously Charities would have to refund the ticket price and ask for the ticket holder to donate the amount to claim Gift Aid. This no longer applies – and assuming the following conditions are met Gift Aid can be claimed on the ticket fee:

  • The individual agrees that the cost of their ticket becomes a donation and the charity keeps an audit trail of this agreement.
  • The individual does not receive a benefit as a result of their donation
  • The individual completes a Gift Aid declaration

See also: Planning for the future: finance

Contracts (professional musicians)

Lots of groups will be engaged in contracts with professional musicians for work that is no longer going ahead, either for one-off engagements or ongoing contracts (e.g. with Music Directors). 

In both instances the first thing to do is to check the written contract: 

  • There may be a force majeure clause that allows either party to suspend or terminate the contract in response to circumstances beyond their control which make performance of the contract impossible or inadvisable
  • If you don’t have a force majeure clause, then the concept of contract frustration will probably apply – this does a very similar thing to force majeure and does not have to be specifically stated on your contract. Frustration of contract is when circumstances that are not the fault of either party make it impossible to fulfil the contract. Under frustration a contract ends without either party being considered to be in breach. 

Whilst we cannot give formal legal advice and every contract should be considered individually, the above two general points means that it is likely that you do not have to meet the financial obligations of your contracts. Members with insurance with us do have free access to a legal advice helpline which can provide further advice. 

We don’t have a formal contract: not having a formal written contract should not affect the above. A contract is considered to be in place if an agreement is made, so an email chain or verbal agreement can form a contract, and the concept of frustration could still apply to that. 

If we don’t have to pay, should we still pay? 

This is a question a lot of groups have asked – and there is certainly a moral angle to this. As has been widely reported the plight of self-employed and freelance workers is a big issue in the COVID-19 crisis, and most professional musicians will fit in to these categories. And we know lots of groups want to support the industry and these professionals at this time. 

The government has now announced measures to help the self employed which do specifically mention musicians. In many cases this will provide the financial support professional musicians need. However, the provision does come with some caveats and so might not help all musicians; for example the recently self-employed aren’t covered or those who earn less that 50% of their money from self employed work (which could mean they have still lost up to 49% of their income). The ISM have some good guidance explaining how the scheme works

The first step is to speak with the professionals and find out if they are included in the scheme. If they are, then it seems fair to us that groups should not feel they have to support the professionals. That said, financial help from the government will not arrive until June (written 27 March) so there could be a role for groups to play in bridging the gap (see below). 

If musicians aren’t covered by the scheme, then the group may still consider providing support where they can. The starting point when considering this issue should be the best interests of your group and its members. As leaders of music groups your responsibility should be to make sure your group comes through this and is available to bring music and joy once we have some normality back - and the financial stability of your group is key to this. 

Many of our groups are charities and so should be making sure that they are spending money responsibly, only in line with their charitable objectives, and in a way that helps their beneficiaries (members, audiences) and meets their public benefit requirement. 

There are lots of considerations that go into the best interest consideration:

  • The balance of different financial considerations within your group: 
    • If you have lost money on a venue hire or on marketing costs, can you justify expenditure that would put your group at financial risk? 
    • Should you ask members to carry on paying subs when they might be hit hard financially themselves, so you can pay professionals? 
  • Supporting and maintaining good relationships with the professionals you work with will help you to operate again quickly and successfully when you are able to 
  • The reputational element – we all need to help each other during this time and supporting those around you is a good approach 

There is also the wider financial context: musicians who don’t qualify for the government scheme might be covered by funding schemes provided by professional arts organisations and funders, such as: 

The situation will be different for different groups and only those involved in running the groups can make the decision based on the balance of factors specific to their group. 

The Making Music view is that on the whole the government scheme and funding from professional arts funders should now cover most situations, but where help is needed for professional musicians and where groups can afford it, providing financial support is a good thing to do to support the sector in general. 

The important thing though is that decisions are taken by the committee or trustees and with the best interest of the group at their centre, and that, as always, such decisions are documented and recorded properly. 

Making a payment 

If you do decide your group wants to help support professional musicians, the next decision is how much and for how long? 

We think professionals’ musicians will understand the situation - their future income is dependent on working with our groups – supporting groups and maintaining good relationships will help that. 

As such we think honest conversations and trying to establish any shortfall that a group could help with is the way to go. This will vary from case to case and of course depend on what your group can afford. The spirit of open and honest discussion should lead you to a place that is fair and supportive for both parties. 

If it is an ongoing arrangement (e.g. MD) then consider a cap and review point – 20% for the next month might be feasible, but not beyond that. As the COVID-19 situation is uncertain and changing, keeping these discussions ongoing and flexible is important. 

Legal helpline: 0345 078 7543 

See also: Planning for the future: finance

Contracts (with organisations) 

Your group might have contracts with various organisations such as venues, staging hire, music hire, coach hire. In all cases the first thing to do is to check the written contract: 

  • There may be a force majeure clause that allows either party to suspend or terminate the contract in response to circumstances beyond their control and which make performance of the contract impossible or inadvisable. 
  • If you don’t have a force majeure clause, then the concept of contract frustration will probably apply – this does a very similar thing to force majeure and does not have to be specifically stated in your contract. Frustration of contract is when circumstances that are not the fault of either party make it impossible to fulfil the contract. Under frustration a contract ends without either party being considered to be in breach. 

Whilst we cannot give formal legal advice and every contract should be considered individually, the above two general points mean that it is likely that you do not have to meet the financial obligations of your contracts. You will be unlikely to re-coup costs already paid – but not have to pay fees due. 

To some extent it may depend on what happened when, who cancelled and when, in relation to changing government advice. So, there might be some tricky waters to negotiate. 

The general sense seems to be that most companies are being understanding and flexible and not looking to try and enforce fees, but we have also heard of cancellation fees being charged. 

As a general rule, if you think a company is trying to make you pay when you think it is unfair or unreasonable to do so, you have every right to push back.  

As leaders of music groups your responsibility should be to make sure your group comes through this and is available to bring music and joy once we have some normality back - and the financial stability of your group is key to this. 

Many of our groups are charities and so should be making sure that they are spending money responsibly and in a way that helps their beneficiaries (members, audiences) and meets their public benefit requirement. 

If you do feel you are being treated unfairly, taking legal advice is a good idea – members with insurance with us do have free access to a legal advice helpline which can help. 

Whether and how much you push back might depend on a few things: 

  • Who the organisation is – for regular suppliers who you have good relationships with you could consider finding some middle ground - if both sides give a little, then hopefully they can avoid losing a lot. 
  • Small local venues or suppliers in particular might benefit from your support – and helping them to keep going might benefit you in the long run.
  • The amount being asked – fighting a small amount might not be worth it among all the other things you have to do. 
  • Reputational damage: we are all in this together and being supportive rather than litigious might be a better approach. 
  • Do also consider that there is government help for businesses to keep going and keep staff employed. 

Postpone don’t cancel 

Rather than cancelling a contract altogether you could look to delay or postpone it until later in the year. This may well suit both parties as it means no money needs to change hands right now – and the supplier have work lined up for when the country is back up and running. ‘Later’ is of course a tricky concept – in these uncertain times making concrete arrangements is hard – so open conversations and agreed flexibility is important, as is clarity on when final commitments need to be made.
 

Legal helpline: 0345 078 7543 

See also: Planning for the future: finance

 

Member subscriptions 

Membership Subscriptions are normally a significant amount of a group’s income, and we have had quite a few queries about how to deal with this. The main three being:  

  • Do we have to refund subs already paid? (e.g. if the year has been paid for in advance)
  • Should we charge for online activities?
  • Can we ask people to carry on paying paying if we aren’t providing any online activity?

The first step is to get a good picture of your financial position and consider what you can afford. Often fees pay for activities – with no activities to pay for you can perhaps survive with reduced or no membership income for a short period. On the other hand, losses from activities cancelled might need to be covered by membership income. And you may have ongoing costs that still have to be paid – e.g. rent on a storage space for instruments or staging, website costs etc.

This will obviously vary from group to group. But understanding your position and how much membership income you can afford to lose will inform how you approach any decisions. 

Refunds: check your refund policy (if you have one). If a member asks for a refund and they are entitled to one in line with that policy – then you should honour it. Except these are exceptional times and so you might ask them to reconsider (see below). 
If you don’t have a refund policy, then there is less certainty over what you should do – which in some ways gives you more flexibility, but you should also consider what is the right thing to do (see below). 

Groups who claim Gift Aid on membership subscriptions should be aware that they cannot offer a refund for the full amount paid. See Gift Aid below for more details.

Should we charge online for activities? There is no reason you shouldn’t. They might be online, and they might be different, but time and effort goes into organising them, and they may well have a cost associated, whether that be the cost of an online platform subscription or paying your MD to run them. Indeed, there is an argument to say you should charge, as giving them away for free undervalues them. You might decide that a reduced fee or different fee structures (e.g. pay as you play) are appropriate, and of course concession prices should be considered (see below) – but there is no reason why online should equal free.

Asking people to carry on paying  with no online activities: not all groups have moved online and most membership businesses that are closing (e.g. Gyms) are not taking fees for the time the service is not available – and this is a pretty standard business approach. But your group is not like a gym – the relationship people have with their groups is different, which means you might take a different approach. 

Consider your members

Whether its refunds or a question of ongoing payments you need to consider the best interests of your groups and your members’ situations.

If loss of membership income would have a big impact, then you should speak openly and honestly to members about this. Being pro-active about this and asking if they could help by not taking a refund, or by carrying on paying seems like a fair and reasonable thing to do. 

Members are in your group because they enjoy it and value it, if they can, they will probably happily support, so it is there for them when things are back to ‘normal’. 
Of course, not everyone will be able to help, with people losing income a refund / break in paying might be really helpful, so any request should be done with consideration. Having a few different options is a good idea, a clear idea of how much income you can afford to lose will help you shape these options:

  • Offer a reduced fee option 
  • Offer a complete break from payments – if you are providing online activities make sure anyone taking up this offer is still included so they don’t feel cast aside and forgotten. 
  • Make sure these are genuine offers and be aware of the potentially sensitive nature of these discussions, ensuring privacy and discretion. 
  • You could consider asking those that can to not only continue paying but to consider an additional donation – to help cover those who can’t. 

If you think your group can survive without subs income for a short period, then it is worth considering refunds or having sub breaks – some people will be very glad of it and it shows you are thinking about and caring for your members.  

If this is the case, from an admin point of view it might be better to carry subs over to the next term rather than issue refunds – but be mindful that some people might prefer the refund now. 

If you do decide to issue refunds or stop taking payments, then make sure you have a clear policy about how these will be handled and communicate to your members. Some things to consider: 

  • How will the refunds work – will it be full or a percentage?
  • On what basis will partial refund be calculated? 
  • How and when can members expect to receive payments? 

 

Gift Aid

We know lots of our groups claim Gift Aid on the membership fees they receive. This is done on the basis that part of the fee secures the member a personal benefit (normally personal musical tuition) and the remainder of the fee is considered a donation or gift. Groups can claim Gift Aid on that portion of the membership fee that is considered a donation or gift. 

Part of the fee being a donation is an important principle of Gift Aid. A central part of being a charity trustee is to act in the best interest of the charity and its beneficiaries as a whole, voluntarily giving back donations is unlikely to be consistent with this requirement.

As such groups should not refund the donation element of the membership fee (Gift Aid can then be claimed on this subject to the normal conditions). The other element of the membership fee (personal tuition) can be refunded.

See also: Planning for the future: finance

Charity governance (England and Wales)

It's not an easy time to be running a charity and we know lots of trustees have concerns around governance. The guidance below gives an overview of things to consider, and the Charity Commission has provided some guidance to help charities to run as efficiently as possible during the current Coronavirus outbreak. 

Charitable objects and best interests

A fundamental aspect of being a charity is that its activities fall within the scope of its charitable objects. Central to the role of a trustee is to act in the best interests of the charity and ensure any money spent is directed towards achieving those objects. For most of our groups this means providing public education in the art and science of music, which in practice is putting on musical activities.  This mean that your charity’s money shouldn’t be used towards other charitable causes, whether that’s making a donation to other charities or spending money on activities that are not music related.

It is understandable that charities want to help during the current Coronavirus outbreak. From a public health and welfare relief point of view there are lots of charities whose purposes fall within these areas and who are in a better position to help that music groups. You can help your members by facilitating them supporting each other through this time, but be careful of spending charity funds on non-musical support. You could also spread messages to your membership about other charities if you feel it’s appropriate.

You can still make a big difference within your purposes. In times of isolation the social benefits associated with making and listening to music are more important than ever. Finding ways to keep making, promoting and sharing music can be a great help to your members, and indeed anyone you can connect with. See our resource on staying connected for some ideas.

Lots of groups are doing this through online activity, but it’s not possible for all. If you can’t provide musical activity at the moment that’s ok. Not meeting your objects in the short term and reducing activity to minimise costs, is in the best interest of the charity if it means you can fulfil your objects in the medium to long term.

Collective decision making and liability

It’s important to note that a board of trustees is just that, a board that takes decisions and acts collectively. All trustees should be involved in key discussions, especially around financial planning. Obviously, that can be hard at the moment, so finding ways to keep everyone involved is important. If a trustee is in a position that means they cannot properly contribute they, and you (the wider committee) might want to review their involvement and adjust their role accordingly.

For trustees of unincorporated associations liability lies with them personally and is not limited to the organisation. We understand that in times of increased risk this can be concerning for trustees.  The Charity regulators accept that things go wrong and have never been in the business of holding individual trustees liable for well-meaning and well-informed decisions that don’t work out, an approach that hasn’t changed. The current situation might be graver and risk higher, but the principle of acting in the best interest of the charity, applying skills and experience and taking advice where needed should still be your approach. As should maintaining transparency and documenting how and why decisions are made.  If you have insurance with Making Music you do also have some trustee indemnity cover in place.

For trustees of incorporated charities (CIOs and Charitable Companies) where the liability is limited to the organisation, the above principles still apply.

Bringing in new people

During lock down you might find that some trustees are unable to give as much time to running your group as they would like, and that you are looking to get some new people involved (see keeping your group running for more info)

If your constitution has a co-option clause then there may be some scope to appoint new people as trustees without having a formal election. Co-option clauses vary in how they work. The one in the Making Music model constitution allows people to be co-opted only to replace a trustee who has resigned mid-term, but others might have a more general power to co-opt.

If your constitution does not give you power to appoint new trustees outside of elections, then calling an Extra or Special General Meeting and holding an election (by post or online) could work. It might be simpler for new people to help in a volunteer (rather than official trustee capacity). If you do this, you must be clear about the scope of their role and power. Decision making and responsibility should still sit with the trustees.

AGMs, other meetings and annual reporting

The Charity Commission encourage charities to hold AGMs and other meetings virtually where they can (see online meetings below). However, if this is not possible you can decide to cancel or postpone your AGM . The trustees should ensure that their decision and reasons why are clearly recorded.

If postponing or cancelling affects the charity’s ability to send or complete annual reports and the filing date is imminent, then you should contact the Charity Commission and let them know by email: filingextension@charitycommission.gov.uk, including your charity name and number. Read the Charity Commission guidance to find out more.

Online meetings 

The Charity Commission has allowed video, teleconferencing and the internet to be used as an alternative to in-person meetings, even if the charity’s governing document does not mention using one of these methods to hold meetings. Once again it is the responsibility of the trustees to ensure that all decisions to do this and the reasons why are clearly recorded. Read the Charity Commission guidance to find out more.

Reporting

The Charity Commission have stated that they will maintain a level of flexibility during this difficult time. However, it is still important that charities continue to report any serious incidents to the Charity Commission and do all that they can to safeguard their own volunteers, staff and beneficiaries. Read the Charity Commission guidance to find out more.

Contacting the Charity Commission 

  • Telephone: 0300 066 9197 (Open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
  • Enquiry form 

See also: 

 

 

Charity governance (Scotland)

It's not an easy time to be running a charity and we know lots of trustees have concerns around governance. The guidance below gives an overview of things to consider, and the Scottish Charity Regulator OSCR has provided some guidance to help charities to run as efficiently as possible during the current Coronavirus outbreak. 

Charitable objects and best interests

A fundamental aspect of being a charity is that its activities fall within the scope of its charitable objects. Central to the role of a trustee is to act in the best interests of the charity and ensure any money spent is directed towards achieving those objects. For most of our groups this means providing public education in the art and science of music, which in practice is putting on musical activities.  This mean that your charity’s money shouldn’t be used towards other charitable causes, whether that’s making a donation to other charities or spending money on activities that are not music related.

It is understandable that charities want to help during the current Coronavirus outbreak. From a public health and welfare relief point of view there are lots of charities whose purposes fall within these areas and who are in a better position to help that music groups. You can help your members by facilitating them supporting each other through this time, but be careful of spending charity funds on non-musical support. You could also spread messages to your membership about other charities if you feel it’s appropriate. Having said that, OSCR also think other charities might be uniquely placed to help and are looking at a process that allows charities to temporarily change their purposes to help with the Coronavirus outbreak. You can read the OSCR guidance to find out more.

You can still make a big difference within your purposes. In times of isolation the social benefits associated with making and listening to music are more important than ever. Finding ways to keep making, promoting and sharing music can be a great help to your members, and indeed anyone you can connect with. See our resource on staying connected for some ideas.

Lots of groups are doing this through online activity, but it’s not possible for all. If you can’t provide musical activity at the moment that’s ok. Not meeting your objects in the short term and reducing activity to minimise costs, is in the best interest of the charity if it means you can fulfil your objects in the medium to long term.

Collective decision making and liability

It’s important to note that a board of trustees is just that, a board that takes decisions and acts collectively. All trustees should be involved in key discussions, especially around financial planning. Obviously, that can be hard at the moment, so finding ways to keep everyone involved is important. If a trustee is in a position that means they cannot properly contribute they, and you (the wider committee) might want to review their involvement and adjust their role accordingly.

For trustees of unincorporated associations liability lies with them personally and is not limited to the organisation. We understand that in times of increased risk this can be concerning for trustees.  The Charity regulators accept that things go wrong and have never been in the business of holding individual trustees liable for well-meaning and well-informed decisions that don’t work out, an approach that hasn’t changed. The current situation might be graver and risk higher, but the principle of acting in the best interest of the charity, applying skills and experience and taking advice where needed should still be your approach. As should maintaining transparency and documenting how and why decisions are made.  If you have insurance with Making Music you do also have some trustee indemnity cover in place.

For trustees of incorporated charities (CIOs and Charitable Companies) where the liability is limited to the organisation, the above principles still apply.

Bringing in new people

During lock down you might find that some trustees are unable to give as much time to running your group as they would like, and that you are looking to get some new people involved (see keeping your group running for more info)

If your constitution has a co-option clause then there may be some scope to appoint new people as trustees without having a formal election. Co-option clauses vary in how they work. The one in the Making Music model constitution allows people to be co-opted only to replace a trustee who has resigned mid-term, but others might have a more general power to co-opt.

If your constitution does not give you power to appoint new trustees outside of elections, then calling an Extra or Special General Meeting and holding an election (by post or online) could work. It might be simpler for new people to help in a volunteer (rather than official trustee capacity). If you do this, you must be clear about the scope of their role and power. Decision making and responsibility should still sit with the trustees.

Accounting and reporting

OSCR has asked that charities try their best to send annual reports and accounts on time as they will not be extending these deadlines. However, due to the current circumstances OSCR will maintain a level of understanding and not penalise late filing. The important thing for charities to send in as much information as they realistically can.  You can read the OSCR guidance to find out more.

AGM’s

OSCR understand that AGMs might have to be postponed, and doing so would mean you don’t meet the requirements of your governing document, and they are understanding of that. Any such decision should be well documented. Read the OSCR guidance to find out more

Holding meetings virtually. 

OSCR will allow meetings to be held virtually even if the charities governing document does not clearly mention that this can be done. If trustees do decide to hold virtual meetings it is important that this decision and the reason why it has been made is clearly recorded and documented by the trustees.  Read the OSCR guidance to find out more

Contact OSCR

See also: 

DBS Checks (changes to DBS ID checking guidelines)

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, DBS has made some temporary changes to the ID checking guidelines for standard and enhanced checks - and basic checks, when submitted through a Responsible Organisation. These changes have been made to limit face-to-face contact and now allows for:

  • ID documents to be viewed over video link
  • Scanned images to be used in advance of the check being submitted

The full guidance can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Please ensure that you follow the advice on GOV.UK around checking identity documents for indicators of fraud.

Further DBS information and FAQs can be found here: COVID-19: How DBS is supporting the fight against coronavirus.

OTR

OTR can be claimed on some costs for cancelled concerts.

It is considered abandonment – and as such you can still claim on expenditure incurred before the concert was cancelled. Then usual rules apply to that expenditure – e.g. it has to be qualifying cost and any apportioned correctly. You can read more in the HMRC guidance

Confirmation of cancellation will need to be included in the claims supporting documentation. 

Data protection

The Coronavirus outbreak has meant having to operate in different ways, and that might include changing how you communicate. It’s important to remember that data protection rules about how you should use your data have not changed. Some key principles to remember:  

Legitimate use: you can contact people without specific consent for certain reasons, such as key updates about, and administration of, their membership with you.

Marketing: where you are sending marketing emails promoting services then consent is needed. You should also be providing an option for people to opt-out in every email you send.

Contacting members

Whist the rules haven’t changed, given the unprecedented situation you might reconsider what comes under legitimate interest. The following types probably could be considered legitimate interest: 

  • Updates on activities; cancelations, future-plans and getting back to ‘normal’
  • Updates in relation to membership fees

New online musical activities: if online activities are how you now deliver musical services you could argue this comes under legitimate use, it is telling your members about how to access the services you offer and they have paid for. Certainly, initial updates about new activities seems fair, but be aware that those not taking part might not want to keep getting updates.

Newsletters: Lots of groups are sending regular newsletters to members to keep in touch. This starts to move away from legitimate use and towards marketing and needing consent. For those you have always emailed it’s fair to assume you can carry on. For those you don’t normally email a little more consideration is needed, see our guidance on newsletters for more information.

Contacting audiences

It’s harder to apply legitimate use to communicating with audiences. If it is about an existing booking then it will be fine.

If it’s about promoting new events or a newsletter then consent would be needed. If you already have that in place, there is no problem. If you don’t have consent, then you shouldn’t contact then. However, given the situation you might think it’s worth finding ways to contact people. See our newsletter guidance for more information.


We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.