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Does whistleblowing have its place in the Voluntary Sector?

In this blog post, Michaela Clark, Capacity Building Manager at MK Community Foundation, makes a case for voluntary sector actors speaking up when they notice things going wrong.

As Martin Luther King Jr suggested, "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent".

Always ask yourself what the future you will say about your actions today.

Social movements such as Black Lives Matter - #BLM, and #MeToo have recently grabbed the headlines. With the speak-up culture becoming more of a social normality, it is crucial to understand the reputational damage not dealing with a disclosure adequately can have on an organisation, regardless of the outcome.

What is whistleblowing?

“A worker raising a concern with someone in authority — internally and/or externally (e.g. to regulators, MPs, the media) — about wrongdoing, risk or malpractice that affects others (Advice, n.d.).”

Key legislation (Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and the Employee Rights Act 1996) has been designed to protect workers against any detriment or dismissal for workers who report malpractice to their employee or a third party.

Volunteers and trustees are not protected under this crucial legislation and must report any concerns to the Charity Commission if not done internally.

Why is it important?

Principle 7 of the Charity Governance Code, is 'openness and accountability', meaning voluntary organisations should be transparent and open in the way they are run (Code, n.d.).

At times whistleblowing can be the most effective way to draw attention to a serious issue. By speaking up, it helps organisations to become better establishments.

Best practices

It is good practice to have a whistleblowing policy and procedure which sets out the definition of malpractice, who you should report disclosures to and how they will be investigated.

Where possible, allow whistle-blowers to disclose information in confidence and remain anonymous.

Talk about whistleblowing before it becomes an incident; encouraging a speak-up culture will make employees/volunteers feel comfortable and create a culture where disclosures are not seen as wrong but as a way of continuous improvement.


*This piece has been created for the Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership department, at the Open University.*

Advice, P., n.d. [Online]

Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr 2023].

Anon., n.d. Charity Governance Code. [Online]

Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr 2023].

Code, C. G., n.d. [Online]

Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr 2023]

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