The best advice I can give charity Boards of Trustees today is: lock up your chief executive because the Daily Telegraph is after them.
The newspaper known for its successful probing of MP pay and expenses is now taking aim at charity CEOs. Specifically it has gone for the heads of the charities that make up what is known as the Disasters Emergency Committee or DEC. DEC is more often than not heard of in the context of appeals to send aid in response to major intl emergencies. These are put out by the BBC and other broadcasters as you may well know.
I have mixed emotions about this morning’s story. On the one hand I fear that our charities are becoming more like businesses every day, far removed from their founding principles. Is this just another vestige of that trend?
On the other I feel immense frustration that society seems to expect my colleagues working for charities to dress in sackcloth and flagellate themselves every morning. At some point these last few years Britain has gone from a ‘keep up with the Joneses’ mentality (which was bad enough) to that in which we actively covet all that our neighbour until it has been taken away.
In such a febrile atmosphere such campaigns can have unintended and harmful consequences. The outcry over MP expenses was right and proper. But it has also stymied parliament and parliamentarians from receiving the resources they need to serve the nation well.
The head of the Charity Commission, William Shawcross made the only response he could this morning. Charities should be prudent and exercise appropriate controls on pay. Also that this is a matter for charity Boards.
In fact if you are really interested in asking the question of charities about whether they are well run or not then CEO pay is a blunt instrument. Better to examine the composition and behaviour of the Board, how it reflects its beneficiaries interests, how it reports and accounts for this in public.
But that probably sounds too much like hard work to the Daily Telegraph.