Peter Cardy: Strong personalities can be useful

The Charity Commission seems preoccupied with Kids Company, but without strong individuals the sector would be lesser, writes our columnist

Peter Cardy
Peter Cardy

Q: The Charity Commission has drawn attention to the serious governance problems when there are dominant individuals in charities. Almost every charity I know has some strong personalities behind it: should they be excluded from decisions?

A: I guess the commission is still preoccupied with Kids Company. The risks are clear and are set out in recent advice on cabals and dominant individuals. But no powerful individuals in charities would have meant no Thomas Coram, no Barnardo's, no Leonard Cheshire. Apparently the commission needs treatment for its irony deficiency: the email correspondence over Cage and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust shows the commission's deliberations can also be driven by dominant individuals.

Q: Many commentators see 2015 and the coming year as the apocalypse for charities, with a hostile political, media and financial environment. Is it really the end for charity as we know it?

A: Pundits are not paid to have long memories. In the five decades I've been interested, charity Armageddon has been reported after most elections, at each recession and whenever there is a shift in the political consensus. The essential fabric of charity as we know it has survived for four centuries since the Statute of Elizabeth of 1601. If you're planning to buy a wreath for the demise of charity in 2016, spend the money in the pub instead: pubs are in real and present danger. And if you think these are hard times, thank your stars you weren't around during the Reformation ...

Q: What do you think of Lord Grade's appointment to chair the new Fundraising Regulator? Is it a good thing that he has a sense of humour?

A: Always beware the smile on the face of the tiger, I say. But Grade's experience of being regulated as a TV executive might have taught him that it is possible to regulate to support and develop an industry, rather than just suppress it. Meanwhile Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, is obviously a comedian. Appointing a wealthy man to a top post on the equivalent of £100,000 a year without proper process... I can't wait for the Daily Mail to have another rant about salaries and cronyism in the sector.

Q: I notice that one of my fellow executioves has taken to copying-in a widening group to all of his emails, including the chair of the board. What do you think this means?

A: It might signal serious insecurity, or it might be the equivalent of sticking your hand up in class higher than anyone else and saying "pick me, pick me!" Either way, if I were the chair I would be seriously irritated. If I were the chief executive, I would explain that, by convention, communications with the chair go through me unless requested otherwise. But I would explain it only once.

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

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