The surprise collapse of the anti-bullying charity BeatBullying dominated the final weeks of 2014 as people asked what had gone wrong.
The previously lauded charity cited financial problems – thought to have arisen from ambitious expansion and a failure to attract funding for the future – and went into voluntary liquidation in November after failing to reach an agreement with potential buyers. The charity’s most recent set of accounts showed that it had made a loss of £280,065 on an income of slightly less than £2.4m in 2012. Staff members, about 44 in 2012 according to the Charity Commission website, were left without jobs.
It’s a story that looks set to run into the new year as more is revealed about the crisis, including that the charity’s founder, Emma-Jane Cross, and former BB executives set up a new company to support public services online a week after BeatBullying went into liquidation, and that an offer to buy the charity, saving two websites and the staff team, foundered.
Other charities that found themselves in difficulty in 2014 included the Prince's Trust, which in the summer cut about 100 jobs in order to reduce its administration costs, and the volunteering charity CSV, which in October restructured and appointed a new management team in order to tackle financial losses totalling more than £3m over two years. Lucy de Groot, the charity’s chief executive, retired that month and was replaced by Oonagh Aitken.
A topic that rumbled on through the year was the salaries paid to senior charity staff and chief executives. A survey conducted by the sector research organisation nfpSynergy in March found that almost a third of people thought that charity chief executives should work for free and highlighted confusion among the public over who was paid in charities.
As a backdrop to this, it transpired that voluntary sector pay had risen steadily over the past 20 years, according to a literature review of pay in the voluntary, public and private sectors published by the Third Sector Research Centre in May.
Job satisfaction among charity workers was also found to have improved this year. Third Sector’s annual survey of charity workers, run in conjunction with Birdsong Charity Consulting, found that moralel among charity workers had improved significantly over the past year.
The survey, released in April, revealed that the proportion of workers who thought morale in their charity had improved rose from 31 per cent in 2013 to 44 per cent this year.
Despite this, a working paper published by the National Coalition for Independent Action in November found that poor working practices were widespread in the voluntary sector.
It highlighted practices such as senior managers being paid high salaries at the expense of front-line workers, zero-hours contracts and "heavy-handed managerialism", with funding cuts and outsourcing placing huge pressure on charities.
A survey carried out by Third Sector in August found that only 6 per cent of senior managers in the top 50 charities were not white; only 8 per cent of trustees and only six out of 50 chief executives were non-white, it said.
The year started with Kim Hamilton resigning as chief executive of Blue Cross after allegations appeared in the national press in January. After Hamilton left, it was reported that six senior staff had signed confidentiality agreements and received pay-offs totalling £180,000, prompting staff and volunteers to write to the board at the start of the year to warn that it had "lost its way".
She was replaced at the animal charity in November by Sally de la Bedoyere, who moved from her role as the head of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association.
Other big appointments during the year included Tony Hawkhead joining Action for Children in March from Groundwork, Mike Adamson being appointed chief executive of dthe British Red Cross on a permanent basis in October, after acting up since Sir Nick Young’s departure in April, and Macmillan Cancer Support chief executive Ciaran Devane moving to lead the British Council in December.