Peter Cardy: Doing four jobs? You need treatment

The sector veteran offers answers on taking on too much responsibility, chasing up fees, keeping up with the paperwork and other workplace dilemmas

Peter Cardy
Peter Cardy

Q. In addition to my day job, I am a trustee or director of three non-profit bodies. I have been asked to become chair of another body, which is a really good organisation that does work squarely in my field of interest and experience. What do you think - should I go for it?

A. If you're seriously thinking about this, you have obviously never seen fit to criticise people who collect non-executive work to which they can't possibly give proper attention. If you can responsibly do two major roles in addition to your high-profile day job, then you're probably on the way to being a workaholic. If you think you can do four, it's time to seek urgent treatment for delusions.

Q. Is the Charity Commission right to say trustees should have direct involvement in fundraising strategy?

A. The range of bums is endless, but the commission is again trying to make a pair of knickers to fit all. It has also managed to drag normally sensible sector bodies into its magical thinking. The so-called "Practical Handbook", published by the Institute of Fundraising, can be so general as to be pie in the sky and so detailed as to be a mandate for tinkering. Can the trustees of the RNLI or CRUK really have direct involvement in fundraising strategy? And should they in a £500k charity? It makes me think I've wasted 20 years arguing for the chief executive's role in this. Instead of regarding fundraising as like the plumbing - of interest only when it makes a puddle - the chief should be right in there, monitoring the dials, reading the temperatures, acting on deviations from the plan and reporting to the trustees long before the water gets too deep.

Q. A couple of years ago our chairman asked at a trustees meeting why I, as chief executive, was not a director of the charity. Her successor has picked this up and is running with it, including enhancing my pay. I'm not comfortable with this. What do you think?

A. It depends on the shape of your charity, but even if there is agreement about this, there are plenty of hurdles. Have a look at the Charity Commission guidance. I explain my view to boards thus: "If the s**t hits the fan, I lose my job; you go to prison." It's crude, but the greatest value of a chief executive, responsible for performance, is giving detached advice and guidance to the trustees, who are responsible for governance. When the chief is also a director, roles are ambiguous and the chief executive's detachment is compromised.

Q. I always kept papers from charity boards and committees I used to sit on or chair. They have been handy in settling arguments and answering questions. But they occupy most of a filing cabinet: should I keep only the key papers?

A. The problem with thinning is to know which are the key papers. Face it, you're never going to read them and, as time passes, their usefulness vanishes. It's not your job to maintain the archive for organisations with which you're no longer involved, and there is probably commercially or personally confidential material in there. Secure document disposal is widely available at modest cost.

If you have a workplace dilemma for Peter Cardy, contact him at

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