Peter Cardy: Stay close to the money on the board

Plus: fundraising regulation, Brexit, coping with professional loss and dealing with overheads are tackled by the sector veteran

Q I've been asked by some fellow trustees to stand for election as either deputy chair or treasurer of our charity board. I'm definitely interested, but undecided. Which would you advise me to go for?

A Stay close to the money every time. As treasurer, you can exercise a lot of good influence; as deputy chair, you can't. Speaking of his role as vice president of the US in the time of Richard Nixon, the famously corrupt Spiro T Agnew was reported to have said that the job wasn't worth a bucket of warm spit. Even if he'd been honest, he would still have been right.

Q What do you think about the progress on fundraising regulation since last year's scandals?

A It is turning out to be excessive, bureaucratic, expensive and burdensome, and it will not prevent further bad behaviour. It's a classic over-reaction along the lines of the Dangerous Dogs Act. The adverse publicity was sufficient to bring about most of the desired change.

Q I've been reading about the views of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Acevo on the effects on the sector of Brexit. Are they being unnecessarily alarmist?

A I don't know the implications and nor does anyone else. Unpicking four decades of laws, regulations, agreements and protocols will not be done overnight. The only fact in evidence during the referendum campaign was that there were no facts, and that is still the case. So, yes, while it's sensible to try to understand the implications as soon as possible, the umbrella bodies are being alarmist. Remember the sudden and expensive rise of the charity risk industry in the 1980s? The Brexit industry has the potential to be much, much bigger and a goldmine for the lawyers and their acolytes.

Q A leading charity lawyer has recently said it's a myth that charities can operate with no overheads. I disagree: I run a small charity that spends nothing at all on admin. Where do you stand?

A You're kidding yourself. Your overheads might be met by volunteers, gifts in kind or direct payments by supporters, but any charity has at a minimum to keep accounts, insure itself, run trustees' meetings, keep records - overheads, in other words.

Q I am frustrated by the disorganisation of my board of trustees. There is ambiguity about who decides what goes on the agenda, the running order, what's confidential, who attends and so on and so forth. I feel like resigning as chief executive. What's your advice?

A Throw a big tantrum and hand your resignation to the trustees. If they accept it, they didn't deserve you and you can tell who you like about it all.

Sector veteran Peter Cardy offers answers to your workplace dilemmas. Contact him at

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