johnObrien

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Knowing when the time is right to step down

For some reason I’ve been thinking about babies recently. I’m reaching that time when my own babies fly the nest. The wonder of birth was long ago and, thank goodness, times change, people change and we move on. Wouldn’t life be dull if every day was the same? So what about organisations? You often hear long-serving trustees or staff talking about ‘my baby’.

As far as I know, ‘world domination’ is not a charitable objective

There I was, just walking down the street minding my own business. Then I noticed. Some people were pointing, others crossed the street, net curtains were twitching. “What’s wrong with that man, mummy?” said the child. “He’s not a politician is he?” “No darling, just ignore him,” she replied.

“He’s not a banker is he?” The child looked tearfully at her mother. “I’m afraid not,” came the reply. “It’s worse than that….  he works for a charity.”

Some sector salaries seem to be plucked out of thin air

It’s not surprising we are all fascinated by pay – all those stories about overweight cats and charities having to pay private sector salaries or they’ll end up being run by fools.

But I wonder if the review that’s just been set up is going to look at salaries down here in the murky depths. The numbers might not merit an article in a tabloid, but there are many questions that could be asked.

Love and hate in the voluntary sector

I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a copy of the Daily Mail – it’s not really my cup of tea, I suspect.

“Hate” is a strong word and I generally shy away from passing judgement on others, especially dead people. But it did get me thinking about what I hate.

Why aren’t we just completely open on pay?

So today the BBC payoffs are in the news; last week it was charity fat cats. Well, here’s a little story that won’t hit the news headlines but maybe it should. I was really impressed when I heard it.

I was working with a charity last week. The chair of trustees told me that they had wanted to thank their chief executive who has just moved on after 10 years hard work, so they too had offered a golden goodbye. The chief executive politely and graciously declined the offer. The sum involved… just £500.

Who pays when a charity collapses?

I had a long phone call from a suffering trustee yesterday. To cut a long story short, the charity went bust and collapsed in a heap. Total debts around £60K (including a small sum owed to us), and, yes indeed, it was unincorporated….  so it’s personal.

How do you train people in common sense?

I have no idea how long it takes to train a teacher. Like most of us, I can remember good and bad teachers, and usually it seemed to be a combination of experience and wisdom that made the difference. It seems common sense that people experienced elsewhere in life will take less time to train than most. But how on earth do you train people in common sense?

Charities that live with the curse of uncertainty

Love her or loathe her, I don’t think anyone would suggest that Lady Thatcher was ever plagued by doubt and uncertainty. You knew where you stood with the Iron Lady. I suppose that is usually seen as a strength, but sometimes ‘I’m not sure’ might be a more truthful statement. Can you imagine our party leaders, when grilled by Eddie Mair, responding with a sheepish: “That’s a good question Eddie, and I don’t really know the answer”.

It’s budget time…

It’s budget time again for CA Plus. I wonder if George Osborne’s is as complex as ours. One of the more challenging aspects is setting the price for the services we provide. Today we hear about a solicitor charging £4,000 for photocopying; yesterday a group we support showed me an itemised bill from an accounts firm with an average charge of £42 for each email. Nice.

Income is the tricky bit

And so Blockbuster bites the dust. Christmas is over and the harsh reality of the balance sheet is revealed. It seems the rise of competition through the internet is the reason, but I wonder what the management team were talking about five years ago and what their strategy was? It got me thinking about the degree of control we have over our own finances and how we manage this.