Editorial: Dissent at the RAF Benevolent Fund

Twenty per cuts staffing cuts and the departure of the marketing chief have left the forces charity at a crossroads, says Stephen Cook

Stephen Cook
Stephen Cook

Yesterday was Remembrance Day, and many people are still wearing their poppies. The Royal British Legion and other military charities remain among the most popular and best supported in the country.

But like most charities, they are feeling the pressure of austere times and facing difficult decisions. A case in point is the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, as our analysis shows. It has a new controller, recently retired from the Ministry of Defence, and his cost-cutting proposals, endorsed by the trustees, have caused consternation among supporters. Some of the charity's ambassadors will meet the chair, Lord Trenchard, later in the month.

The dissent comes because fundraising and marketing have not been spared in an across-the-board cut of 17 out of 70 staff, and the man credited with leading the successful recent development of the charity's voluntary income and profile-raising has left as a result of a restructure.

The dissenters believe that the most successful charities protect and nurture their revenue-raising functions at a time of financial pressure, and they fear the decisions will damage the fundraising, marketing and brand development work that has changed the fund into a modern, dynamic organisation in recent years. They now see the balance swinging towards career military men used to a command structure and away from sector professionals with the flexible skills needed to run a high-profile charity in an increasingly competitive world.

The fund contends the restructure has been accepted by the staff and that the fundraising strategy will continue as before with some minor adjustments, such as dropping events with a low return on investment. The coming years will put all this to the test, and the trustees will no doubt keep a close eye on developments.

The fund has an impressive record over nearly a century of caring for RAF personnel; it has recently spent £24m on building state-of-the-art play facilities on RAF bases. Whatever happens, this admirable charity will survive, and deserves to thrive.

- Read our analysis

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