Peter Cardy: If the board stops communicating with you, find out what's going on

The sector veteran offers answers to your workplace dilemmas

Peter Cardy
Peter Cardy

Q. Since a new chair of trustees was appointed last year, I have discovered that the board is meeting in private. It doesn't share its thinking or the minutes of these meetings with me, the chief executive, despite polite requests.

A. The board is entitled to meet in camera if it chooses, and confidential minutes are perfectly proper. But if you're used to being present at all meetings and seeing all minutes, this signals an important change. If the board has stopped communicating with you, you could be forgiven for wondering what's going on. This isn't conducive to a trusting relationship and your first step should be to raise it with the chair. If nothing changes after frank discussions, you have a choice: write your resignation now, or wait until it's written for you, sooner or later.

Q. We are a large charity with many branches and fundraising groups. At any one time, perhaps about 10 per cent of them are breaking our rules or the law. One group, led by a charismatic former MP, organised a raft race that over the years turned into an annual river festival with food stalls, rides and performances. It makes a lot of money, but there is no attempt to manage the basic risks. The local authority tears its hair out, but never brings down the curtain. No one accepts overall responsibility and it all happens in the name of the charity. Any thoughts?

A: You're right to have a headache: a disaster is waiting to happen. If the local chairman and committee continue to refuse responsibility for it, then a conversation with the local authority about your worries would only be right. If you try to shut it down from head office, you will alienate your local supporters. In any case you might fail: with so many local bodies and traders involved, you aren't in control, and they might find another beneficiary. It would be a pity to lose the income, but the potential costs of an accident, food poisoning or a drowning are incalculable.

Q. I am a regional fundraiser for a big, household-name charity. I have a problem: my regional director. He is very enthusiastic and he feels it's his duty to front our big fundraising events. That's fine in one way, but he is stiff and gauche, very top-drawer. He's OK with the great and good, but has a gift for saying the wrong thing to our grass-roots members. I am getting a lot of bad feedback. What to do?

A. Try to find a way of broaching the subject that isn't critical or confrontational – he might understand what you're driving at. If that doesn't work, start to get your big-name supporters to front events: he will naturally have to take a step backwards.

Q: This seems so trivial I'm embarrassed to raise it, but it's tearing a happy group of volunteers apart: the tea money. For years, everyone has contributed £5 a month, but it doesn't cover the cost of increasingly exotic tastes: redbush tea, ground coffee, hot chocolate, chai and so on. I said we should raise the contribution to £5.50: it was like throwing petrol on a bonfire.

A. You pay the volunteers' expenses, so why not the cost of refreshments? If you feel uncomfortable about using charity funds, you could discuss everyone contributing to the cost of the Christmas dinner instead of funding that. Or you could tolerate the alternative of everyone providing their own tea, coffee and milk for a few months until the wheel comes full circle again and everyone finds it more convenient to have a pool. Or why not ask the volunteers to agree on a method and simply meet the deficit - if there is one? But why is a manager as senior as you involving herself in this? Haven't you got more productive things to do with your time?

Sector veteran Peter Cardy offers answers to your workplace dilemmas. Contact him at

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