Wednesday 18 February 2009

CEOs are not just for Christmas!

One of the worrying trends emerging from the sector is organisations panicking and blaming their CEOs for the recession . Our governance generally is weak . This is a simplification , but in acevo we have now seen 10 examples of CEOs coming to us for support in the last month because they are having difficulties with their trustees .

We have had the example of the CEO who found that during the discussion of the charity budget they were asked to leave and when they returned to the room found their trustees had decided that because the CEO was a large item of expenditure they would remove him and run the organisation themselves. Others have found that panicky trustees are looking inward and sensing problems so blaming the CEO. One CEO has given up their salary voluntarily so they are now an Hon Chief Executive. This is generally disastrous . The ultimate success of the organisation rests on the CEO and the Chair leading through difficult times. Have we moved form organisations being too laid back about the recession some 4 months ago , to now been panicked about how to cope.

So Chief Executives are going to have to hold their nerve . Plan for the worst whilst hoping for the best . And ACEVO will be there to support and advise . Our network of peers and our supporting services are more and more needed .

The ACEVO Board today was discussing how we can provide enhanced support to our members , as well as advocating hard for a better deal for the sector. I reported on the increase in take up of our " CEO in Crisis " service. And my Vice Chair said we may need a campaign to remind trustees that, " a chief executive is not just for Christmas ".

It was the first Board meeting under our new Chair Lesley-Anne and it went well . It was Budget approval time . Now presenting a budget to a room full of Chief Executives is always going to be a challenge. There was detailed discussion and questioning . Perhaps sometimes a little too much into the detail ,occasionally stepping near to the mark on the exec-non exec line , but overall it was clear there was proper scrutiny . And the Budget approval process is one of the key tasks for a Board so right that they should test the mettle of me and my team . A good trustee board will examine critically and challenge though always in a way that supports the organisation and its CEO and team . And they approved the budget , so that is what we needed . In fact one of the key points made by trustees was that as an organisation we needed to be both prudent , and also investing in our members at a time of crisis. They made a particular point that the training and development budget for staff must be protected . As a professional body we must lead by example and all too often organisations think that training is the easy target dor cuts . We have not done this.

Today is the NCVO Conference and I am setting off there soon . There is a piece in Guardian Society on the ncvo Almanac . I profoundly disagree with one of the conclusions . The ncvo head of research argues in the article that the " employment and training sector is most at risk in a recession because it is largely dependent on earned income ". I believe this is wrong. This sector will grow enormously over the next 5 years . In the last recession this sector grew as it provided more and more services for unemployed people . And as a result of the recent reforms the sector will continue to grow . In fact I know from members that they are already getting more and more requests from DWP for help as Job Centre Plus find it more and more difficult to cope with the numbers.

And I disagree with the suggestion that the trend towards the sector earning more than it is given will reverse again . This would imply a wholesale reversal of the government policy on public service reform . That is not going to happen . Indeed it will accelerate . And the Conservatives have been clear they will push it harder . But we will see as the next decade unfiolds .

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery ,( or so we are told ! ) and I have just discovered that there is an alternative Bubbs Blog . " Boggs Blub ". Access it at

I particularly enjoyed today's entry as I wend my way to the annual conference dinner for the National Canopy and Visor Organisation ( ncvo ) and drinks with my old friend Hubert carrington . Obviously come the revolution the perpetrator of this blog may have to be shot , but in the meantime it gave me ( and my staff ) a happy hour of amusing reading . The spelling in the alternative blog appears to be immaculate . How do they do that?

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