The voluntary sector lost one of its most colourful and respected characters on 7 January when Directory of Social Change researcher Luke FitzHerbert was killed in a car crash in Northamptonshire.
The DSC issued a statement that read: “It is with the most profound grief and sorrow that DSC announces the devastating news of the death of one of our best loved and respected employees, Luke FitzHerbert.”
A fierce champion of small charities and an ardent advocate of openness and transparency, FitzHerbert has always been a prominent figure in the sector, with strong views and a reputation for the utmost integrity.
“He was a one-off, the complete opposite of a bureaucrat,” said Michael Norton, his former co-director at the Directory of Social Change. “During his whole life he railed against privilege and the Establishment, despite the fact he came from a quite posh Irish protestant family. He spent his whole life challenging accepted wisdom and authority in a way that was very personally his.”
It was his fearless challenging of the foundation sector, even in the face of threats of legal action by trust secretaries and their legal advisors, which had the biggest impact.
“He was an iconoclast, he challenged the whole edifice of grant-making, to make it publicly accountable and relevant to society’s needs, not just the private giving of private resources. It’s difficult to remember that in 1985 when he started, how little information there was available and how secretive and class-ridden the foundations sector was,” said Norton.
“He singlehandedly opened up this very private world to public scrutiny and made it a matter of good practice that trustees be publicly accountable for their grantmaking.
“He has had more impact on the way the foundation sector effectively uses its resources than anything or anyone else. The Charities Act has been trivial in comparison to what Luke has achieved,” he added.
David Emerson, chief executive at the Association of Charitable Foundations, said: “This news has been received with much sadness. Although a lot of what Luke achieved was before my time at the Association, he has been a challenging and seminal commentator of the grant sector, pushing it forward into the 21st Century. His input has had an extremely positive impact despite his ideas not always being universally well-received.”
Luke is survived by his wife Kay, who was badly injured in the accident and is recovering in hospital, and by his two daughters and several grandchildren. The family have asked if people could refrain from sending messages to the hospital and instead do so via the Directory of Social Change, which has put a condolence page on its website, www.dsc.org.uk. A memorial service will be arranged in due course.