Joe Saxton: What charities really mean

From growth targets to impact and transparency, our columnist looks at the language of charities

Joe Saxton
Joe Saxton

It's not easy getting used to what charities say and what they really mean, so here is my guide to a few of the most frequently used terms.

We have ambitious growth targets

We have unattainable fundraising targets, set by the chief executive to impress trustees, who hopes that fundraising can pull something out of the bag, preferably without spending much money.

Equal opportunities employer

Only white people work for us, but we have a meaningless process that make us feel better about our lack of diversity.

Voluntarism is at the heart of the charity sector

As a highly paid chief executive, I am clinging to a notion of how the sector was 30 years ago, and I'm not letting go.

Strategic governance

Trustees talk a lot about this in meetings, but the staff don't know what it means.

Visionary leadership

The chief executive talks about mission and vision a lot, but we don't really know what it means.

Impact report

Our annual report, but with more information about how utterly brilliant we are, which we paid expensive consultants to do.

We are an independent charity

We are tied to a single source of funding, but we hope that if we say we are independent enough times nobody will notice.

We have a high-powered board

Trustees never turn up to meetings and are always incredibly busy with other stuff.

Charities must be more transparent

... as long as we don't have to reveal anything more about our finances or salaries.

Trust and confidence is vital

Nobody knows the difference between trust and confidence, but they sound really good and we hope things will improve without us having to do anything meaningful.

We think we should have a fully-funded charity regulator

We want the Charity Commission to have a bigger budget; we just don't want charities to have to pay for it.

Charities should merge

Sounds like a good idea. However, I've never been involved with a merger and don't realise how much work is involved.

The current operating environment is very challenging

I am warming my board up to the fact that we are down on budget.

We want to work in partnership

We want to work with somebody we can boss about, but who will share costs.

Our charismatic founder

Our founder is a pain in the butt to work with and has been around forever (hollow laughter in the nfpSynergy office, but I'm not sure why).

Joe Saxton is the founder and driver of ideas at the research consultancy nfpSynergy


Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in

Latest Management Jobs

RSS Feed

Third Sector Insight

Sponsored webcasts, surveys and expert reports from Third Sector partners


Expert hub

Insurance advice from Markel

How bad can cyber crime really get: cyber fraud #1

Promotion from Markel

In the first of a series, we investigate the risks to charities from having flawed cyber security - and why we need to up our game...