At Large: The strange case of Wilson & Hyde

Plus: technological wizardry at the Charity Tax Group conference and Ken Burnett's RNLI pun

Lookalikes: Wilson (left) and Hyde (right) or is it the other way round?
Lookalikes: Wilson (left) and Hyde (right) or is it the other way round?

An occasional perk of charity work is an invitation to Buck Palace - a garden party, maybe even lunch. But one such occasion proved rather disturbing for Matt Hyde, chief executive of the Scout Association, as he told the recent NCVO annual conference drinks reception. After the event, he sent some pictures to his parents - as you do - of the guests mingling and chatting, only to find when he next visited them that they had pinned up an image of the charities minister, Rob Wilson. Why him? Hyde asked. You mean that's not you, they said? Look at the pictures, half close your eyes ... well, we each have our cross to bear. Wilson now sports a beard, of course, so with luck it won't happen again.

Hyde, who is deputy chair of the NCVO, then introduced the said Wilson, who wheeled out "shared society" but spared us "strong and stable". He also sounded rather plaintive when he said he had made "considerable personal effort to provide a final opportunity for the sector to demonstrate that fundraising self-regulation can work". A coded reference, perhaps, to the widespread belief that No 10 (pre-May, of course) was hell-bent on statutory regulation after the Olive Cooke affair, but Wilson hung out for a voluntary scheme. He apparently clinched his case by offering the Fundraising Preference Service, which is proving - how to put this? - a pain for all concerned.

After the reception came the dinner and the surprise that the ingredients for the main course were supplied by FareShare, the charity that collects surplus food from retailers and distributes it to the needy. Earlier in the day headline speaker and Chief Scout Bear Grylls had described eating the rare delicacy of goats' testicles while a guest of nomadic tribesmen. Fortunately, the diners were given, by contrast, an excellent garlic and thyme roasted chicken. A brilliant publicity coup by the charity that At Large thinks should be widely repeated at awards ceremonies, City dinners and the like. There are 270,000 tonnes of surplus food each year - not much of it goats' testicles, fortunately - of which FareShare handles 4 per cent so far.

The veteran fundraiser Ken Burnett has been blogging about his recent correspondence with the Information Commissioner, warning that charities should wait and see how next year's new EU data-protection rules pan out before following the RNLI into an opt-in-only relationship with supporters. "Most other charities are simply not in the same boat," he points out. Well, quite.

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