Charity trustees must ask themselves tough questions about whether their organisation lives up to its values and has the right culture, NCVO’s trustee conference heard yesterday.
Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age and chair of the Baring Foundation, said that the public had started to ask questions of charities because they questioned whether the moral stance of charities was consistent across everything they did.
“When they discern a difference between what we say and what we do, they question our ethics and our morals,” she said. “We do have to ask really tough questions of ourselves. We have to ask if our morals really underpin every aspect of our behaviour. How do we use our power? Are we using all of our assets to make the world a better place?
“How do we make sure our values underpin our supply chain, our pay structures, how we campaign and fundraise and measure our impact. How do we protect our staff, our volunteers, our beneficiaries, our people?
“Charity is about fairness. It’s about changing society for the better. It’s about deepening the ties that hold us together. It takes inspirational leadership. That leadership has to start from the boardroom down.
“Because you can’t delegate culture. It starts from the top.”
Charities must address causes of disadvantage
Morrison also challenged trustees to think about whether their charities should work together to address the causes of disadvantage, which are leading to an increase in demand from beneficiaries.
Morrison said that charities must be ready to challenge on these issues.
“We’re seeing things worsen for our beneficiaries,” she said. “These are really bad and sobering thoughts for us. We have to recognise the impact of inequalities in our work. Benefits reform is impacting on people. They are getting poorer. The burdens on our sector are increasing, yet we know our prospects are worsening, with a shrinking state and a situation where the public have lost some of their trust and confidence in us.
“We need to think about the world we’re operating in. We need to think as a sector about how we address some of these bigger concerns.”