Charity leaders have a responsibility to act together and stand up for the sector during these tough times, said Mind chief executive Paul Farmer at last night’s Charity Finance Group annual dinner in London.
In an impassioned clarion call to everyone in a charity leadership position, Farmer said we desperately need “a positive counter-narrative when the media distort the issues”.
Reflecting on recent media coverage of subjects like CEO pay, campaigning and emergency aid, Farmer said: “There is no harder time for us as charities than at the moment. We must all stand up for the sector. We shouldn’t be defensive; there should be no apologies; we should be proud of what we do.”
Relating his comments directly to the audience of charity finance leaders, Farmer said that this should matter to FDs. The media spotlight is on value for money and efficiency, he said, and CEOs look to finance directors for a lead on these matters.
Farmer, who has become one of the UK’s most highly-regarded charity CEOs during his seven years at the helm of the mental health charity, went on to reflect on the paucity of finance leaders in charities who step up to the role of CEO. He contrasted this with the commercial sector where he said 80 per cent of CEOs at FTSE 100 companies have a finance background.
“We should encourage more FDs to seek opportunities to become charity CEOs,” said Farmer. “This would bring a broader range of skills in the areas of finance, IT and HR into the CEO ranks.”
He called for more to be done to “nurture and support” younger people coming into the sector, encouraging them to contribute across a range of roles, and then become fully-rounded leaders in the years to come.