Some musical suggestions to liven up board meetings

If they don't listen, bang the cymbals to get their attention, says Helen Simmons, finance director at the Diocese of London

Helen Simmons
Helen Simmons

There used to be a regular flurry of complaints in the 1990s about shock fundraising tactics - which, strangely, you don't hear any more, despite adverts being no less powerful.

We've become desensitised to shock: we shrug off the sight of a close-up of Wayne Rooney's gashed leg or Prince Harry's nudity in Las Vegas; we tune in for televised hospital action in Real A&E or One Born Every Minute to unwind at the end of the day.

And we have also become used to receiving our news through the most bland and robotic communication methods. What we surely want when receiving life-changing news is to be sitting down, with someone holding our hand while we sip Ovaltine with the other one. Instead, we get exam results by email and a school place by text. Even the dear old Institute of Chartered Accountants used a national newspaper to let us know if we'd qualified or not - requiring us to stand in the midnight rain in Leicester Square for the first editions.

One friend was texted to say that his house purchase had fallen through on completion day. He was sitting in the freshly loaded removal van and had to ask them to unload. An old friend of mine, whom I last saw about two years ago, actually texted me the other day to ask me to be guarantor on a £320,000 mortgage. The message ended with a smiley face and two kisses. I nearly passed out.

But what really shocks me is how trustees of charities remain unmoved when getting important news. When the treasurer tells them they are heading for bankruptcy, they barely flinch from tracking how far the biscuits have got round the table. Short of leaping onto the board table in Kill Bill Japanese mafia style, it is very difficult to know how to get this information to sink in.

I would suggest, perhaps, the addition of some percussion instruments to gain an appropriate reaction - a light tring-a-ling on the triangle to move people on to the next item on the agenda, a xylophone flourish up the scale for good news (and down for bad), a wallop on the drum to wake up anyone whose eyes have closed, maracas where an appreciative clap would be welcomed and, finally, a crashing cymbal for the report announcing to trustees that the charity is heading for bankruptcy.

Helen Simmons is finance director at the Diocese of London

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