Not all charity founders struggle to move on - just look at Jane Tewson

Plus: Why disclosing staff political interests is wrong, unethical investment is a risk to public support, how charities can help tackle the hospital bed shortage and why we should all be measuring impact

Jane Tewson, who founded Comic Relief but moved on when the time was right
Jane Tewson, who founded Comic Relief but moved on when the time was right

Some charity founders do know when the time is right to move on

Two other people would have been worthy of a mention in your article about the perils of founder's syndrome. First, Alec Dickson, who founded Voluntary Service Overseas in 1958 and served as its first director: he left in 1962 in acrimonious circumstances, founded Community Service Volunteers the same year and successfully guided the latter for about 20 years.

Second, Jane Tewson, the admirable founder of Charity Projects, which later became Comic Relief, who served as its first chief executive from 1984 to 1995: she left in 1995 to found Pilotlight, a charity that matches businesspeople with charities and social enterprises, before moving to Australia in 2000.

Both Dickson and Tewson moved at the right time in the interests of their charities. They then used their energy and skills to take up new challenges.

Suresh Lalvani, Consultant, London N11

Should charities publish staff's political affiliations?

As a charity trustee, I would certainly resign if my organisation asked me to reveal whether I was a member of a political party. The outcome of this level of "transparency" would be merely to sow more seeds of distrust.

Natalie Ponting, London SW19

Why on earth would we seek more disclosure of the political affiliation of people who work in charities than that of civil servants? Some causes will attract people of certain political persuasions because - dare I say it - the idea of supporting a charitable cause is innately political. We seem to be allowing the wilful conflation of political advocacy with partisan political lobbying.

Adam Pickering International policy manager, Charities Aid Foundation, West Malling, Kent

Charities that invest unethically risk forfeiting public support

Andy Howard is correct to say there is no evidence that selling shares will lead oil or tobacco companies to "shut up shop or wind down" - but that is hardly the point. As Comic Relief discovered, charities that invest in activities opposite to their objectives or likely to bring them into disrepute will inevitably attract criticism, potentially alienating much-needed public support.

The Charity Commission's guidance makes it clear that trustees have a duty to understand these risks and act accordingly. Ethical investment isn't only about doing the right thing - it is also about risk management. For example, it might be logical for charities operating in conservation, biodiversity or habitat conservation - fields in which climate change is a pressing concern - to avoid investment in fossil fuel companies on ethical grounds.

Neville White, Head of socially responsible investment policy and research, Ecclesiastical Investment Management, London EC3R

Impact measurement should be a collective responsibility

Caroline Fiennes is right to criticise the current state of charity evaluation. Telling funders how your charity is doing is one legitimate function of evaluation. But when the need to communicate success overrides the desire to learn, we get spin, not evidence.

So how should the sector respond? First, impact measurement should be a collective rather than an individual concern. It is effective only if it is practised across the sector; if only a small number embrace it, we're left simply with a handful of charities better equipped to compete with one another for funding. This is why NPC is devoting energy to collective approaches: shared measurement makes it cheaper and easier for everyone to evaluate their work and share knowledge across the sector.

Second, funders should take evaluation more seriously. Often they waste money on poor-quality evaluations and fail to share what they learn with others. There's no excuse for such failings.

Rob Abercrombie, Director of research and consulting, NPC, London SE1

Hospices should be working with hospitals to tackle bed shortage

I was interested to read that three national charities would take part in a trial helping out in A&E departments. But why only three?

The funding for this excellent idea should be increased and spread widely across the sector to smaller organisations, such as hospices. As Sir Stephen Bubb of Acevo recently pointed out, 20 per cent of hospital beds are occupied by patients who shouldn't be there, preventing the movement of other patients from A&E.

There are too many terminally ill patients in hospitals who should be discharged to die either at home or in nursing homes. Hospitals should work with hospices to speed up the discharge of these patients to more suitable places.

Mark Jackson, Chief executive, St Richard's Hospice, Worcester

Please send letters to or Third Sector, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington TW11 9BE

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