At a recent Action Planning Conference – Leading Your Charity Through a Time of Change – Dame Suzi Leather, Chair of the Charity Commission, urged open-ness and sound leadership on board members.
Dame Suzi explained that some UK charities were often reticent to share their financial and operational details with their community of interest.
In reality, Dame Suzi said, a community of interest will never fully understand the mission of a charity, without the will of trustees to publish their financial and delivery information as widely as possible.
Charitable work should not be a mystery to the beneficiaries. The Chair of the Commission likened charity trusteeship to a job like airline pilot…
…99% of the time, the job of a trustee, like that of a pilot, is perhaps not especially exciting. In fact, being a trustee can be a relatively calm, rewarding affair, which involves direction, support, stewardship, monitoring, and keeping a steady course.
But then theres the 1 in a 100 event or crisis. When the systems fail or when something – internally or externally – goes unexpectedly wrong, and trustees, like airline pilots faced with the threat of an accident, are required to take active control.
It was clear from the speech that some charities find it difficult to share their financial data. Many trustees are uncomfortable with this aspect of their work. However, care of young people, the aged or delivery of specialist community social enterprises can only be undertaken after the engagement, often, of professional support – which does have a cost on the balance sheet.
Interestingly in these times of urging for the creation of social enterprises – from this clarity of mission for charities emerges the truth that only a charity has so much care at the heart of its service delivery, in a way that no private company working for individual profit can.
You can read the full text of the speech by Dame Suzi Leather on the Charity Commission web site here.