Little at Large

Scruffy charity types and Lib Dems take the biscuit

- It can be awfully hard to change your reputation once it's firmly embedded in the public mind.

The Media Trust recently held a seminar with Google on how charities can get the most out of the ubiquitous search engine. As if to emphasise the embrace of the latest technology, the event was 'Twittered' as it happened. But it still didn't impress everyone.

After a photo of the audience was uploaded to the feed, a certain Harry Wallop, consumer affairs editor of The Daily Telegraph, posted that they confirmed his stereotypes of charity workers: "Never seen such a scruffy bunch." Which is rather unfair - there wasn't a pair of sandals or a jam sandwich to be seen.

- If third sector leaders are to storm Parliament and become the new political class, it's worth keeping your eye on Craig Dearden-Phillips, chief executive of Speaking Up and Third Sector columnist. He won a "shock victory", in the words of the East Anglian Daily Times, for the Liberal Democrats in the Suffolk County Council ward of Hardwick on 4 June. But unseated incumbent Paul Hopfensperger is contesting the result because of a Lib Dem flyer that accused him of voting to pay the county council's chief executive £220,000 a year - whoever wrote the leaflet had mistaken Paul H for his fellow county councillor and wife, Rebecca, who was re-elected.

How will the election of Dearden-Phillips fit with his desire, expressed in this magazine a couple of weeks ago, to spend more time with his charity? And will his MBE in the Queen's birthday honours make a difference?

- We've now been treated to a breakdown of the expenses of the senior managers of the sector's main umbrella bodies. It's a story that has huge anorak appeal: the fact that WCVA's director of internal services claimed expenses of £833.33 in 2008/09 must excite statisticians everywhere. But it's interesting to note that sensitivity over expenses is not new.

The Institute of Fundraising's Lindsay Boswell invited the Charity Commission to a meeting way back in 2000 and was amazed to see them refuse a chocolate biscuit because they'd have to register the gift. They obviously feared the inevitable accusations of hobnobbing.

Mathew Little is a freelance writer, Mathew.little@haymarket.com.

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