Q For months the department with which my advisory committee works has had no director. The rumour mill has run red hot with theories and gossip about whether he will return or be replaced. Tonight I read in a press release that an interim director, who has a mixed reputation, had been appointed with immediate effect without our knowledge. It’s not the first time the committee has been treated in the way and I was angry enough to write a resignation letter. Should I send it?
A It’s surprising the committee wasn’t briefed about this. Flouncing out like a Cabinet minister is childish self-aggrandisement and won’t get you where you want to be. But the board needs to know how strongly you feel about how poorly the charity treats its volunteers. Do you really want to carry on giving your time to such a body?
Q I chair one of our committees. Sometimes a trustee comes to a meeting "to keep us in touch with the board’s thinking". They insist on speaking at length about what the board has been doing and rarely seem to be as well-informed about the charity as we are. Shall I tell them to stop?
A That would seem crass. Make the visit more productive by preparing a summary of some of the committee’s work to help the board keep in touch with your thinking. You could create a more constructive session by agreeing the questions you’d like answered and who will ask them, and letting the trustee have them beforehand so they can be adequately prepared.
Q The chair of our board gave us a year’s notice that she was stepping down. We thought this was the ideal opportunity to recruit from a wider pool, so we advertised publicly, had some really good candidates and selected an exceptional person. But a vociferous group now wants to elect a different candidate, a former trustee, who was disliked by many.
A Congratulations on your open recruitment process. Democracy will take its course and no doubt the board will be campaigning for your chosen candidate. It’s too late to change anything for this year’s AGM, but then the board should reflect on whether the role is really chair of the board, rather than the charity as a whole. If the former, as is often the case, change the constitution so that they are elected from within the board.
Q Have you got any advice for Annabel Hoult, the new chief executive of Which?
A Certainly. The financial arrangements of her predecessor and others have seriously damaged the reputation of this body, which is supposed to be the ally of the consumer. She should understand the anger of the members of the organisation and make sure that her consumption of the charity’s resources is in line with those of its customer base.
Q My deputy is hard-working, a great networker, schmoozer and political animal. This has many benefits for the profile of our modest charity, but it also means he is often distracted. Now he tells me he has been asked to be chair of another, unrelated charity: he tells me the commitment is 16 days a year, but I’m not sure we can spare that much time.
A Sixteen days? It’ll be more like 36! Factor in the working groups, subcommittees, the AGM, the fundraising events and the official receptions. With hindsight, you probably realise that you should have insisted on a more disciplined approach before now. Ask yourself if it’s right for your charity to donate about 18 per cent of your deputy’s time (and pay) to an unrelated cause.
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