Peter Cardy: By Tracey Crouch's deeds shall ye know her

Sector veteran Peter Cardy offers answers to your workplace dilemmas

Peter Cardy
Peter Cardy

Q. Will Tracey Crouch do anything as part-time minister for the sector?

A. She could hardly do less than Rob Wilson, and at least she hasn't started her job by bad-mouthing charities. Benefit of the doubt: governance of the sports national governing bodies has been undergoing a long overdue clean-up on her watch. One important thing she can do is to secure a well-informed and genuinely independent new chair for the Charity Commission. By her deeds shall ye know her.

Q. Are Lord Grade and Donald Trump by any chance related?

A. What do you think? They are both children of rich parents, elevated to high office, but disdaining to learn much about the detail of the environments in which they're working, making ill-informed public statements, squandering capital and goodwill they had when they arrived in office, causing offence to people trying to do their jobs with integrity, alienating potential allies...

Q. Is hard or soft Brexit going to be better or worse for our charity, and how should we make contingency plans?

A. If you try to make contingency plans now, you'll almost certainly be burning up your time and brains to no effect. It's still not clear whether the game is snooker, soccer or chess, who the players are, how many there are, what the rules are or when they'll be agreed. Decide what you want and work out who in government you want to talk to, but it's a highly mobile situation, so don't expect them to be able to make decisions any time soon.

Q. What do you think of phone conferences for trustee meetings?

A. Admirable, especially if the alternative is to drag people from all over the country: think of the saving in energy, carbon emissions, cost and time. Check that the constitution allows you to make decisions by electronic media and choose the right meeting software. Just like a meeting in person, the key is in the preparation and the chairing. If the agenda shows where everyone will be "sitting", it's easier to tune in to the voices. The chair must check at the end of each item that everyone has been heard. Even so, phone meetings are generally shorter than meeting in person. Minutes need to go out within days for amendments and corrections. It gets easier with practice.

Q. You have referred many times to the cultural divide between the business sector and the charity sector. But they both consist of organisations of people trying to be businesslike and efficient. Where's the gap?

A. To every generalisation there are exceptions. I know charities that are run like ruthless businesses and businesses that are full of altruism. It's possible to do good through business, just as through charity. But, typically, people in the charity sector are driven by the mission, not by maximising sales or profit. They tend to be guided by altruistic, not materialistic, goals. That makes the management task a bit different. Factor in volunteers whose priorities are usually home, family and employment first, and you have a different culture.

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