The other day I was at a small celebration hosted by a charity, where there was a lovely spread of interesting canapes and a few bottles of wine. At this time of year, many organisations have such events and often make small, maybe personal gifts to acknowledge contributions and achievements, or just to thank their supporters for being "one of the family". I am a friend of the charity and was very touched to have been invited.
Later on in the evening, I heard one trustee question whether another bottle should be opened, and realised that there is a perspective that such events are a cost to the charity that it can ill afford - and I always remember my father saying "look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves".
There is truth in this old saying. On the other hand, no one wants to be taken for granted, and a little personal appreciation and a bit of collective fun can really help with morale. In the current climate, all charities need all the advantages they can get - and I would say that a little good cheer can go a long way.
Reluctant to say thanks
After all, one of the key strengths of the sector is a belief that we all matter, and few of us are selfless and confident enough not to need to be thanked from time to time. But charities are sometimes reluctant to take action to say thanks and show that their staff matter - in the current environment, it may seem inappropriate, or it does not occur to directors who are preoccupied with worrying about budgets.
In the same way, we need to be aware of how we can use such events to inform possible external partnerships. Networking can be made to seem a hard-nosed activity, but informal gatherings allow us to do more than merely hand out and collect business cards - they can encourage us to exchange ideas and develop relationships that could form the basis of future collaboration.
Even in organisations that are looking at closure, or moving in that direction, there are arguments for allowing a small amount of resources to be expended to maintain as much goodwill as is practical. As an insolvency practitioner, I have often seen poor morale make a difficult period even worse.
'Hunkering down', cutting costs and concentrating on looking hard at internal processes can be the easiest option, as against looking outwards, taking a slightly more relaxed attitude and 'casting bread on the waters'.
We have come a long way from the drink-sodden, clubby atmosphere that used to pervade many walks of life, from the City to Fleet Street to parliament. But let's not go to the other extreme.
I wonder what we would have found if Charles Dickens had written A Christmas Carol II. Ebenezer Scrooge might have built a much more successful business with Bob Cratchit as his partner and regular staff charabanc outings than he would have done by sticking to his original miserly ways.
Peter Gotham is a principal at MacIntyre Hudson