Umbrella body publishes guide for aspiring charity chief executives

The charity chief executives body Acevo has published guidance on what applicants for charity chief executive vacancies should be asking potential employers during the interview and recruitment process.

The guidance, called Look Before You Leapwhich was published on Acevo’s website today with assistance from the advisory firm Saxton Bampfylde, uses the real-life experiences of charity chief executives to provide guidance for existing chief executives and others coming new to the role and even to the sector itself.

Issues covered in the guidance include analysing a charity’s finances, such as checking its accounts online, being cautious of qualified and modified audit opinion, and trying to speak to the finance director and/or treasurer.

Cash flow, reserves policy, cost and efficiency programmes and pension deficits should also be asked about, according to the guidance.

The guidance says the chair, the board and senior management team should all be considered as well when pursuing a chief executive vacancy.

“Only take on a job in an organisation with problems if you are confident that the board will back you in making changes,” the guidance adds.

Candidates should also speak to the outgoing chief executive for their perspective on the organisation and pay attention to the charity’s stated culture and values.

Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo, said: “We’ve seen too many examples of newly appointed chief executives who get their feet under the desk, only to find that all is not as it had seemed.

“Whether you’re an experienced civil society chief executive wanting to seek a new challenge, a senior leader looking for your first chief executive role or someone coming into the voluntary sector from the private or public sectors, you need to feel confident you have enough information about the job you’re applying for to decide whether or not it is for you.”

The guide is free to Acevo members but will cost non-members £12. 

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