Share

Banking on relationships

Banking on relationships
Blogs

Banking on relationships

Governance | Martin Farrell | 28 Feb 2011

Making the right decisions can pay dividends in relationships with other charities, says Martin Farrell 

Forty years ago in my university room I had a poster. Indeed I had several but there’s one which I especially recall. It was of two tethered donkeys straining in opposite directions to get at two piles of hay.

They stop and ponder and realise (let’s assume for present purposes that donkeys can realise things), that they’ll both do better if they cooperate and so they stop competing and, together, move first to one pile and then to the other. Very sensible.

I was reminded of this at Andrew Hind’s CTN lecture last autumn when he proposed that the voluntary sector would do well to balance the natural tendency to compete with the equally natural tendency to cooperate. We are trustees in positions of influence, not donkeys. And every choice we make influences not only the relationships with the people in our own charity but also all those in the ‘charitable ecosystem’ which Andrew Hind referred to.

See it this way – each time we make a decision of any sort, we pay in or take out of the voluntary sector relationship bank. And the good news is that when we make a decision which directly or indirectly benefits another, they will be more likely to be inclined, sooner or later, to pay in too. And everyone benefits and the bank balance grows.

So decisions made for the common good are thrice blessed – blessing the one who gives, the one who receives and the ‘ecosystem’ as a whole. Trustee decision-making is not a zero sum game – I win you lose – but can help create a healthier environment for all.

Even if we do not see our interconnectedness, the public does. We know that in the public’s mind charities are interconnected – the actions of one are seen as the actions of any. I remember the mid-1990s when four organisations, by one of which I was then employed, got to the point of deciding to cooperate for the good of refugees, rather than competing for individual organisational advantage. It was a magical moment indeed, and one which, as well as being an inspiration for those involved, led to benefits for each organisation and for refugees.

It can be done. This is not some romantic dream land. Banking on relationships is practical common sense and especially smart in harsh times. And in their day-to-day actions, trustees should lead by example by making decisions which help build the common good – systematic one-to-one links between charities to build relationships and trust, buddying or exchange schemes, twinning programmes and more.

Benjamin Franklin said in 1776 at the signing of the Declaration of Independence: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Although those were indeed different times (Franklin referred to the need to band together in the fight against the British) there is indeed resonance for charities today.

Franklin knew it, the donkeys knew it. We, as charity trustees, would do well to know it too. 

Martin Farrell is vice-chair of Read International and director of get2thepoint

 

Comments

[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The civilsociety.co.uk community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear

Please:

  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

Martin Farrell

30 years ago Martin Farrell volunteered to help a handcraft charity in South Africa and to do church based youth work in a rough estate in Manchester.  Today he runs a consultancy.

Tesse Akpeki (54) Martin Farrell (46) Robert Ashton (41) Tania Mason (23) Andrew Chaggar (23) David Philpott (14) Ian Allsop (12) Vibeka Mair (11) Niki May Young (11) David Ainsworth (11)
Celina Ribeiro (10) Gordon Hunter (9) Leon Ward (9) David Davison (8) John Tate (8) Kirsty Weakley (8) Dorothy Dalton (7) Neal Green (5) Jeremy Swain (5) Rowena Lewis (5) Gareth Jones (4) Daniel Phelan (4) Andrew Hind CB (3) Suzi Leather (3) Stephen Lloyd (3) Pauline Broomhead (3) Rosie Chapman (3) Ingrid Marson (3) Alexander Swallow (3) Belinda Pratten (3) Sir Stuart Etherington (2) Adrian Beney (2) Joe Saxton (2) Jesper Christensen (2) Paul Gibson (2) Andrew Scadding (2) Anne Moynihan (2) Kevin Carey (2) Garreth Spillane (2) June O'Sullivan (2) Dan Corry (2) Paul Emery (2) Simon Steeden (2) Alice Sharman (2) Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE (1) Victoria Cook (1) Claris D'cruz (1) Peter Gotham (1) Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett (1) Justin Davis Smith (1) Kate Sayer (1) Alison McKenna (1) Anne-Marie Piper (1) Jo Swinhoe (1) Karl Wilding (1) Richard Williams (1) Mike Hudson (1) Sir Christopher Kelly (1) Daniel Fletcher (1) Martin Brookes (1) Simon Hebditch (1) Lindsay Driscoll (1) Jo Coleman (1) Cedric Frederick (1) Jonathan Lewis (1) Dame Mary Marsh (1) Rosamund McCarthy (1) Jill Pitkeathley (1) Nick Brooks (1) Linda Laurance (1) Suzie Who (1) James Thompson (1) Stephen Hammersley (1) John May (1) Julian Blake (1) Malcolm Hurlston (1) Andy Gregg (1) Anne Owers (1) Beth Yorath (1) Paul Amadi (1) Caroline Beaumont (1) Judith Davey (1) Douglas Rouse (1) Jackie Turpin (1) Jonathan Last (1) Tom Flood (1) Dan Sutch (1) Jonathan Crown (1) Ruchir Shah (1) Katy Wing (1) George Ames (1) Jenny North (1) Sir David Varney (1) Liam Barrington-Bush (1) Mairéad O'Reilly (1) Tobin Aldrich (1) Michael O'Toole (1) Lisa Clavering (1) Ian Joseph (1) Jonathan Bruck (1) Rachel Short (1) Dr Debra Beck (1) Andy Rich (1) Ian Leggett (1) Leigh Daynes (1) Tim Willis (1) Richard Caulfield (1) Emma Callagher (1)
Less +++ More +++

Newmark needs to understand unpopular fundraising methods

9 Sep 2014

The new minister for civil society will have to decide what he thinks about chuggers and telephone fundraising,...

No way to remember them

1 Sep 2014

Andrew Hind is concerned that the government's behaviour towards civil society organisations could threaten...

It's time for the sector to front up and prove it has nothing to hide

19 Aug 2014

The sector's representative bodies must be bolder in telling the Charity Commission what they think of...

Free eNews

Join the discussion

Twitter
 
Training

Attending our one day courses is a highly effective way of ensuring new and existing trustees fully understand their role, responsibilities and liabilities.

>> Find out more <<