Editorial: It helps to get the finance directors to see your vision

Stephen Cook

Faced with an audience of 450 finance people with a good meal and a couple of drinks inside them, the temptation must be just to tell a few jokes, give them a pat on the back, and let them get back to work on their brandies. But Charity Commission chair Geraldine Peacock didn't go for the easy option when she addressed the Charity Finance Directors' Group last week. She did the jokes and the back-patting, and she gave them a dose of the 'vision thing' as well.

Her message was somewhat different from the traditional line. The commission was a regulator, yes, and would have to say no sometimes. But she also intended that it should be a facilitator, a catalyst, and an embodiment of the "bold and daring" spirit of the voluntary sector. Finance directors have a crucial role in promoting that spirit, she said, by helping the sector to move from a donatory to a more enterprising culture. Instead of going cap in hand, charities should be making investment propositions to their partners.

At first there was some shuffling of feet and looking at watches, but before long she'd got their attention, and by the end this hard-bitten audience seemed fairly impressed. Some of the younger, less cynical diners said it was an inspirational speech.

But brandy fumes tend to evaporate in the cold light of day. Peacock has the vision and the words to describe it, so the question is: can she deliver? Turning round an ancient dinosaur like the Charity Commission is, after all, a very different proposition from her previous achievements with individual charities. We shall see, but getting the finance people on your side is always an excellent move.

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