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Existing governance model is 'bust', says RNIB chair

Existing governance model is 'bust', says RNIB chair
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Existing governance model is 'bust', says RNIB chair 1

Governance | Tania Mason | 11 Nov 2009

The existing model of charity governance that gives non-executive trustee boards authority over executive staff is bust and cannot be sustained, the chair of RNIB told an audience of charity chief executives last week.

In a colourful and uncompromising speech to the Acevo annual conference, Kevin Carey said that boards should comprise both “non-executive wisdom” and “executive expertise and implementation” and that trustees should receive payment for their services.

Carey is in the process of setting up a Progressive Governance Association to promote professionalism among boards.  He used his platform at Acevo – where his chief executive at RNIB, Lesley-Anne Alexander, is chair – to outline some of his ideas.

“Things would be much easier and more efficient if the Charity Commission allowed boards to combine execs and non-execs in a co-creational process,” he told delegates. “The model which makes it difficult for beneficiaries to become trustees and which puts non-execs in a supervisory role over execs is bust.

“It should be obvious to anyone that the one thing non-execs can’t do is effectively monitor execs, especially in the area of finance and budgeting.  No director of finance is worth her salt if she can’t run rings around the honorary treasurer.”

Related to this, he went on, was the need to pay for strategic expertise, especially in the area of financial control. “Charities where the finance director can run rings around her honorary treasurer are running on their luck, and it won’t last forever.”

He said that while charities in general are not full of “venal and grasping people”, they are “prone to a level of vanity and grandstanding that commercial organisations would not tolerate”.

Carey also stated that the “whole regulatory framework of charities” should be reviewed so that they can meet the challenges that await them. “If government wants charities to be cutting edge, fleet of foot and flexible, it will have to take its foot off the regulatory pedal,” he said. “Sometimes small is beautiful but we need some national charities with the heft to compete in the commercial sector and to be taken seriously by government.  The DWP would not be able to ignore a disability charity with an annual turnover of more than a billion pounds.”

Sean Moran
Chair
Exeter Royal Academy for DeafEducation
16 Nov 2009

An excellent thought process Kevin. I have been on both sides of the coin as an exec and a trustee and I seen for far too long executives "manage" trustees who often don't have the time, or indeed the skills to effectively govern their organisation. We have seen what happens when it goes wrong with Age Concern, who will be next?

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