Thursday 19 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

Well, it’s that time of year. Good to sign off my “Today” programme interview with a Merry Christmas to Evan Davies. As Nick Hurd MP and I were exiting the BBC he spotted a picture of Margaret Thatcher on a wall. Said that was a sign that things are changing at the Beeb. However I pointed out there might just be a set of darts nearby.....

It was the annual Bubb clan gathering at the Royal Albert Hall for the Royal Choral Society's annual Carol service. A wonderful night celebrated by a 5000 strong audience singing lustily. Not to mention trumpeters from the Welsh Guard and the fine RAH organ at full throttle. My sister Lucy has a beautiful voice so not surprisingly is an active member of the RCS and was singing! And as a former Head Choir Boy I was in fine full throat

See here

Photo courtesy of David Fielding, head hunter by appointment.

My brother Nick was complaining my Blog has become too serious; but as I said when you get major extracts serialised in the Telegraph and read out at Select Committees you have a be a tad careful. Even for me!

And now I'm in Banbury. At the Horton Hospital. Walking up I got spotted by a chugger. I'm afraid I'm a mug for this and so I'm now a fully signed up member of the Greenpeace Arctic appeal. Saving polar bears. What could be better at Christmas?

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Good pay means good value for money!

I can think of better ways to spend the week before Christmas than appearing before the Commons Public Administration Select Committee on charity CEO pay, as I did yesterday!

I had wondered if we were in for a Daily Mail-style attack on professional pay in charities, but fortunately that proved wrong. Apart from some throw-away tabloid-style remarks about "big whack salaries" this was a thoughtful hearing. Good and pertinent questions from MPs and an excellent line up of 8 leaders from the sector. And we were all singing from the same hymn sheet. I was particularly impressed with the CEO of Mary's Meals, who explained about how they operate a "cap" on pay in their charity but this would not be sensible applied as a rule across the sector. 

I used as my example of how damaging a cap would be the work of Cancer Research UK. The charity employs 3,500 staff. It pays the salaries of 4,000 scientists. They have 41,000 volunteers and fundraised £460 million last year.

It’s the worlds largest cancer research body and provides the majority of cancer research in the UK. It does that through hiring the best scientists and researchers it can find. So yes, it does employ a range of people on salaries over £100k.

The donors and supporters of the cancer charities want to give because we (and I count myself as one of those) want a cure for cancer. We all need better treatment and better diagnostics. The idea you would prevent this body paying to get the best staff (though not paying excessive amounts) would horrify many of us who have been through the trauma of cancer.

Indeed there was zero support for the idea of a cap; and the mighty FT weighed in with a Leader article which dismissed the idea.

The median charity chief executive salary is around £60,000. This figure falls to £34,600 for charities turning over less than £150,000 a year, but exceeds the £100,000 threshold as charities reach an annual revenue of £25-50 million. Charity CEO salaries reflect the varying size and scale of charitable organisations as well as their ethos, values, and impact on the beneficiaries and causes they serve.

But the Hearing went well, and proved a good opportunity to get our arguments out in the open. I suspect we will all have to get used to more scrutiny and transparency about what we do. But if well-conducted and factual, this public debate will be useful and help shore up public trust in our sector.

I highlighted the importance of evaluating charities on their effectiveness rather than their pay, and that the diversity of the sector means that any talk of a cap would be ridiculous. I ended my contribution by praising the public’s ongoing support for our sector - such as the record results for this year’s Children in Need and the support for our work in Syria and the Philippines.

I also announced some rather exciting news: to assist and encourage informed discussion, we are publishing the 'ACEVO Good Pay Guide for Charities and Social Enterprises' this week. More details are on ACEVO’s website.

The guide outlines 5 key principles to help determine fair pay at the top of our sector. They are designed to make it clear to the public how pay is set. Clearly it is trustees who decide, not us. But as the charity leaders network we should be contributing to this debate, being entirely transparent about how pay is set and what terms it should be evaluated on.

We stress the importance of transparency and explaining the process we have in charity to determine pay. We argue that recruitment and retention matter but that there is also a balance with our mission and values and what we describe as "proportionality". And we say the bottom line is "value for money". So what matters is what we deliver. Our outcomes. Any organisation will only achieve high performance if it has strong leadership. The team at the top do make a difference. Ensuring professional pay is not about personal gain but organisational delivery.

It was good to see an article in the FT on Monday setting out some of my views on this in advance of the Hearing. This was followed by their good Leader, though it was a shame they did not balance this by pointing to the Guide we have produced.

Apart from that, not a lot of coverage. I was disappointed that Civil Society choose to adopt a "Sun" style approach to their own reporting of the event. It detracted from the good evidence and strong arguments made in the Hearing. But we must move on. Lessons to be learnt. We have to get better at explaining how pay is set and what, when set wisely, it can help charities to achieve.

We should be less coy and tell the story in full. It makes the case for impact reporting much stronger. There is nothing of be ashamed of in providing high salaries if they are needed to get good leaders and to deliver high performance. Sometimes I wonder if we all fall for the notion that sack cloth and ashes is the clothing of choice in our sector, and that not only should we work for charity but be poor and miserable ourselves? It was good that Martyn Lewis made the point that salaries in our sector overall are on one reckoning 45% lower than other sectors. So not excessive. 

Transparency about salaries must also be not just about numbers, but about thought processes. There is no shame in being open. So going into the New Year I shall continue to be robust in promoting our sector's leaders and explaining how their boards pay them. And as a sector, we must get better at telling the story. 

This morning, it was no rest for the wicked. Up early to do Today on R4 with Nick Hurd, about volunteering. As I reminded Nick and the nation, volunteering is not cost-free. I was due to do the prize 8.10 slot. But then Ronnie Biggs died, and Nick and I went on together. Such is life…

Thursday 12 December 2013


David Cameron (and Jeremy Hunt) have shown real leadership on dementia, putting it high on the political agenda at yesterday's G8 summit at Lancaster House. Doubling funding to research is a start but charities want much more action. With 400m people worldwide (and 800,000 in the UK) affected by one of the tragic consequences of ageing populations, progress is urgently needed.

Jeremy Hughes, ACEVO member and CEO of Alzheimer's UK set out a powerful argument in the Guardian. It’s worth reading. ( )

I liked the comment from Hunt on Daybreak yesterday,

“The year I was elected to Parliament – 2005 – Tony Blair...did an amazing thing because he had a G8 summit on HIV aids and he got the world’s leaders to agree that everyone who needed an anti-retroviral drugs should be able to get them by 2012 and he basically achieved that and we really have turned the corner on HIV aids.

“The job isn’t done, but if you can get countries together and you can get collective commitment and dementia is the big disease that no one likes to talk about; everyone’s worried about it; everyone’s scared about it; one in three people are going to get it and what we’re really trying to do is normalise it and say ‘this is sadly going to be a big part of our lives but let’s talk about it, let’s fight it and let’s deal with it – let’s not try and sweep it under the carpet and get more and more worried about it.”

The decision to give dementia a priority billing at the G8 is a real breakthrough. But much remains to be done. But let’s just remember as we praise the politicians, this is yet another example of the superb work that our charities do in their advocacy and campaigning role. 

And that vital role was the backdrop to our meeting in the Lords yesterday when I joined the members of the Commission on civil society who were meeting with the Government to discuss the recommendations for essential changes to the lobbying bill. It was goof to see Greg Clarke MP who is the lead Minister on this. Greg is a star act and I know him well from his time as shadow third sector Minister. He gets the sector. He engages with us and was a strong force behind the rights for the sector that were entrenched in the Localism Bill. He engaged with us and although we were not told of any changes I get the feeling we will get progress. How far that goes to meeting the objectives of the Commission remains to be seen.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Ethical Investment

Time to pull our socks up.  The Panorama programme this evening, which in many aspects was rather thin, has nevertheless highlighted an issue the sector needs to grapple with.

When organisations have endowments (like many Foundations) or big reserves they must invest these both for the good of their beneficiaries, and ethically, for the wider good.

Charity Commission advice used to be too blunt and unhelpful: that trustees should only invest for the maximum return. Now their advice (CC 14 to be precise) is more nuanced and encourages 'mission driven' investment. Not enough charities are taking notice of this new more flexible approach. They need to.

Because, quite simply, it doesn’t seem right that charities invest in tobacco or arms companies.

We need more people in the sector looking seriously at ethically managed funds. The argument is that they don't give as good a return. But you might be surprised to learn the size and strength of the ethical investment industry. There is around $34 trillion under management in funds that subscribe to the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment. That’s about a third of all money under managed funds anywhere in the world. So there’s plenty of choice and we expect that choice to grow.

Impact investment funds, though in their infancy now, may also become an investment option of choice for charities further down the line. Why shouldn't our sector be looking at how we can expand opportunities for social finance; for loans to develop and grow our sector

So, I'm giving our sector and those associated with it a call to action. I have two messages.

One is to the fund managers themselves. Why are you not alerting your charities to ethical problems with proposed investments?  Before you put our money into an investment you think raises issues then consult the charity trustees responsible. Fund management companies need to get their act together and understand the ethics of their investment decisions.

Secondly, to charities. Charities traditionally delegate their investment decisions to a sub committee and they in turn appoint fund managers. So many trustees simply do not know where their investments go. Time for the full board to review investment policy. The full board should review the Charity Commission advice and question whether they are investing in line with their mission and with their own ethos.

The sector needs to do more to engage with ethical investment principles. Ensuring that their investments conform to the particular and the wider good will help ensure that our sector remains true to our collective mission in all aspects of our work.

This is our wake up call.

Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement launch second report

Today sees the launch of the second report of the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement into the government’s deeply flawed Lobbying Bill. The report urges the government to abandon its plans to gag charities and campaign groups, and puts forward amendments which would protect the right of civil society to speak out on behalf of those they serve.

I for one welcome the report and urge government to listen. This bill represents an assault on all campaigning groups, left or right, who do so much to bring our democracy to life. 

The bill will silence charities and other campaigners while giving corporate lobbyists the run of Westminster. The Government must rethink - unless we want to become a beacon to oppressive regimes across the world who want to gag their civil society.

The commission draws from a wealth of evidence from across civil society, including ACEVO. It draws together the expertise and experience of a wide range of charities and campaigning organisations from right across the political spectrum. We have stood together against the Government’s lobbying bill and it would be foolish to ignore what we've said today. This misguided bill will not restore trust in politics; instead, it will stifle civic participation and engagement in the democratic process.

The bill will be debated for the second time in the House of Lords on 16 & 18 December. ACEVO will keep working hard to ensure that the Commission’s recommendations are taken up, so that charities are not restricted from participating fully in the democratic process.