More finance directors switching from private sector to charities, survey finds

01 Sep 2020 News

A growing proportion of finance directors at the UK’s biggest charities moved into the sector from private companies, according to a survey.

The data, published in September’s Charity Finance magazine, shows that 45% of finance directors at the largest charities had a corporate background directly before starting their current job, up from 40% two years ago.

Around one in five finance directors joined their charity from a public body, with another third recruited from within the voluntary sector.

The results are based on information collected on the professional background of finance directors at 94 of the 100 largest charities by income.

The business switchers

The private sector background of leading charity finance professionals includes work at the global management consultancy Accenture and the media giant The Telegraph Group, the survey shows.

Steve Dainty, who joined The Canal and River Trust just over a year ago from a company which manufactures industrial equipment, told Charity Finance that his background allowed him to bring “some of the private sector competencies of continuous improvement, cost control and business performance into a relatively young charity”.

The importance of furlough

The survey also illustrated the importance of the furlough scheme in protecting finances during the coronavirus crisis.

The scheme, which sees the government pay most of the salaries of staff who are temporarily taken off work, started at the end of March. Government data released in June showed that 160,000 charity staff were furloughed in the first six weeks of the programme, while analysis by Civil Society News suggested that this included over 30,000 people at the largest 100 charities.

Sue Hall, the finance director at Historic Royal Palaces, said furlough was “our only income stream” during the first months of the crisis. Around 90% of staff on PAYE at the Royal Shakespeare Company were furloughed at different times, according to the finance director at RSC, Helen Griffiths.

Andy James, chief financial officer at Leonard Cheshire, said that at one stage the job retention scheme was worth £200,000 a month to his charity.

Finance teams still busy during furlough

Finance teams themselves did not report making wide use of the furlough scheme, however. Rita Akushi, the chief financial officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “Our team has been incredibly busy during furlough.”

The Treasury says that the job retention scheme will end in October.

Full data and analysis of the 2020 Finance Director Survey is published in the September issue of Charity Finance.

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