19th September 2013

When all you can do is reflect

I write this blog while stuck  in ICU being treated for three serious infections brought on by a nasty bug that I somehow caught in the community. My doctor said I was unlucky, the understatement of the year.  It was a harrowing start, but I’m now responding well to treatment and things are on the up. And I’m extremely bored, which can only be a good thing.  What this has done is give me time to reflect on the real world implications of the amazing work done by a number of our clients. Peridot Partners is lucky to work with some of the best universities and research institutes in the world like Oxford, Cambridge and the Institute of Cancer Research. Each day, legions of researchers battle funding constraints and commit themselves to finding cures and treatments for today’s health issues. Before I became a headhunter I worked for many years in higher education fundraising. I never ceased to be inspired by the passionate academics and researchers that I was lucky to work with. These people make real world differences everyday. I am now even more grateful to them. So for everyone who questions why universities should have charitable status, look […]
17th September 2013

Listen to find the solutions

Recently elected to represent my local Patient Participation Group at the Regional Patient Forum I duly attended my first meeting last week and have only just recovered from the shock and awe of the sheer scale of the task ahead for the newly established CCG – and in turn the impending impact on my local health economy. The CCG’s are putting patient feedback and engagement as a central plank to their emergent strategy and it is our role, as much as we are able, to support them in finding different solutions as the tension of growing demand and less money increases its grip.  They want to listen to our views, hear our stories and respond to support the shaping of something new. I realise health and social care faces an unprecedented challenge but they need to carry out cost savings on an eye-watering scale and this means radical change.  A strategy is developing focusing on: prevention; using technology so people can ‘manage their own health’; increasing integration between health and social care and last but not least, harnessing the potential of the third sector. It is this strand that is the one closest to my heart but anecdotally at least […]
10th September 2013

Where do the top charity CEOs come from?

 So what caught my eye in the Civil Society biennial survey of the chief executives of the largest 100 charities? It was not that three quarters earn between £100k and £200k – and that the average salary is £146k when you take out the top few major earners.  And it was not that the average age of a CEO is 55 and male either; we all knew that anyway, right?  I was in fact interested to see that the average CEO has been in the charity sector for over 15 years, and that two years ago the sharp influx of CEOs from the public sector has not been repeated since. Thirteen of the CEOs of the top 100 charities have come from the private sector, but most still come through the charity sector with 15+ years experience and we need to take notice of this when we think about recruitment and succession planning. As head-hunters, with increasing regularity we are asked to find strategic directors with commercial experience to drive income, particularly in the new world of commissioning and complex contracting where the charity sector is competing with the private sector.  Social care is a great example of this.  But […]
28th August 2013

The way we think about charity is dead wrong!

This is the title of an inspiring TED Talk by a chap called Dan Palotta, which currently has 2,300,000 views.  Here are the key messages: There are two rule books in this world; one for the Not-for-Profit sector, the other for the rest of the world.   There are five areas of discrimination:   Salaries for staff are low Advertising for charitable giving can be viewed negatively Risk taking is frowned upon (but it’s OK for Disney to lose $200,000,000 on a film flop) There is no time allowed to invest income to build scale (Amazon are allowed 6 years before making a profit) The NFP sector cannot pay profits to attract capital for new ideas so is starved of growth, risk and ideas capital.   Because of the above the number of non-profits growing into significant multi-million pound organisations is tiny (a percentage of 1 percent) compared with for-profit sectors.   Because of the fixation on the percentage of a donation that goes directly to ‘the cause’ vs ‘overheads’ charities  go without what they need to grow because overheads are not seen as a part of the cause.   Isn’t it better to give money to an enterprise that […]
13th August 2013

Working in the charity sector – is it a vocation or a career?

The row about executive compensation has brought to mind an inspiring lunchtime debate hosted by the Atlanta chapter of the now Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), ‘is fundraising a vocation or a career?’. Bearing in mind that this conversation happened nearly 20 years ago, it clearly made an impression.  There were impassioned pleas, well as impassioned as one could be in a vast ballroom with cold chicken, making the case for both sides. On the vocation side, my former boss and dear friend outlined that we’re not in it for the money, we’re in it to change the world.  Similar to the clergy, we have chosen this profession because of a ‘higher calling’ to change the world. Taking a more pragmatic view, his respondent argued that we are professionals and we just happen to be working for the greater good.  We are business developers, salesmen even, who do the best that we can for our product.  We just happen to practice our craft in the not-for-profit sector at this space in time. So is this argument still pertinent today?  Politicians, donors and the wider public are expressing outrage that charities are paying Chief Executives six figures.  Why?  Well run charities […]
31st July 2013

The only male on the Trustee Board

Reading the Civil Society article by Tania Mason published on the 17th July titled ‘Women make up one third of trustees at top 100 charities’ I was surprised by the statistics. It was great to see that the numbers of female trustees on the boards of the top 100 charities has grown by 10 per cent since 2011, so that women now occupy 34 per cent of board positions, but why are we celebrating when it is still only one third of all Trustee roles? Then I read that female representation among chairs of the largest charities is just 14 of 100. And then Tania throws in that just 17.3 per cent of board seats at FTSE 100 companies are held by women and just 1 of the chairs is female. Not good.  Not good news at all! So what is the issue here? In a quick poll of the office a few themes came through that would put our female employees off becoming Trustees.  One is a perception, real or not, of Boards being male dominated.  The women at Peridot Partners would prefer to join charities with the right Board dynamics that support diversity and have a wide range […]
11th July 2013

Staff Acquisition and Retention: If your people are your greatest asset, is it really that different to fundraising?

On Tuesday 2nd July, Julia Roberts and I were invited to speak at the Institute of Fundraising Annual Convention. We have always felt that charities and non-profit organisations should seek to apply a similar approach with current / future employees as they do with donors, and this was a central theme throughout our presentation. There is a lack of candidates for important hires in the sector, and that addressing this needs to be an urgent priority. We also know that there is a distinct lack of understanding from CEOs and Boards around how best to attract and retain talent. The crux of the afternoon’s session was that, in today’s crowded marketplace, non-profits should seek to develop their case for support around retention and acquisition in order to differentiate their role from the competition. What can a charity do to improve retention of staff? Here are some useful ideas: Script the first 90 days for smooth on-boarding Track employee engagement and morale Improve team communication / Offer areas of cross working Invest in professional development Improve access to senior management Promote internally Naturally there will be times when none of the above works and people simply move on. When this happens, […]
4th July 2013

More cuts. How will they impact on local government?

So the latest spending review has given us another glimpse of what public services will look like. Some local authorities will put their hands up in frustration, and some will roll their eyes, but the general feeling will be of “here we go, again”. Local government has been here many times before. Year on year they are given targets to reduce spend. Year on year they streamline services and work smarter. So perhaps the latest spending review doesn’t come as a surprise to many senior management teams in local government. There may still be some fat in the system and some more traditional local authorities (including London Boroughs) still have 7-8 Directors who aren’t even considering merging teams just yet, but it is quite clear that one of the main ways to achieve savings will be to integrate health and social care. The government will subsidise part of this integration by handing local authorities an extra £2bn and feedback from community budget pilots clearly demonstrate that there are massive savings to be made. Once again, integration is a buzzword that has been used for a while now. Some cynics may feel that local authorities are just talking the talk and […]