Friday, 9 May 2014

Would you wrestle a pig?

The big conclusion from ACEVO’s Gathering of Social Leaders, on Wednesday, was that our sector is still highly trusted by the public. This is good reason to be bold in our public voice in the year before the election. Ben Page of Ipsos MORI showed us how our sector is always trusted by more than 60% of people, compared to politicians whose approval is never over 20%.

The Twitter debaters on the day approved, and it’s clear that despite the ongoing saga of CEO pay in our sector our public standing hasn’t been dented. Ben Page had a nice summary of the dangers of being defensive with the press on issues like this; he paraphrased George Bernard Shaw to say “Arguing with the press is like wrestling a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.” Wise words indeed – they even made it into a diary column.

And the CEO pay story is back again this week. The Belfast Telegraph are writing about CEO pay in the 40 largest Northern Irish charities, many of whose leaders are ACEVO members (or members of our sister organisation CO3). They’re asking for the names and pay levels of their CEOs. As part of our sector’s push for full transparency I thought I’d share their questions with you:

“I am a reporter with the Belfast Telegraph.

I rang today but you were out.

I'm doing a story about charity chief executive's pay and have been asked to survey 40 of Northern Ireland's main charities about what they pay their chief executive/CEO.

Could you tell me who your current chief executive is, what their current salary/salary band is (or was in the most recent financial year).

Where charities don't disclose these details, we will be reporting this.

If you can respond before tomorrow evening that would be great.”

Good of them to give us so long to answer…

On a more serious note, this is the kind of story that diverts from the important issue of whether pay is judged as good value by charity beneficiaries, donors and staff. We of course need to be accountable and transparent about pay. And providing all agree it is good value for money, then our time is better spent looking at the results our sector achieves.

Shaw tells us quite clearly; there’s nothing to be gained by wrestling with pigs!

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