Friday, December 14, 2007

Payments to charity trustees – the voluntary sector raises the issue

The Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations has launched a report Chief Executives on Governance. The report stresses the need for "fit for purpose" governance including implementing board appraisal and more transparent recruitment processes.

Interestingly the report touches on the controversial issue of payment of trustees. The report suggests that payment should be considered by third sector organisations to encourage the right mix of skills and experience on boards. A survey for the report found that 15% of ACEVO members already believe it will be necessary to remunerate trustees beyond expenses.

I am wary payment. I think it has potential to damage the reputation of the third sector unless it is linked to excellent governance including effective appraisal and transparent appointment. I also think it has potential to harm the ethos of smaller “voluntary” organisations. (Its not unlike the issues posed by the sociologist Richard Titmuss on the gift relationship. Will more people give blood if they are paid to give?) Moreover, there remain the unresolved problems of how payments may cause difficulties and exclude from participation those on benefits.

I do recognise that payments to trustees can be a tool to broaden pool of potential trustees. This appears to be the experience of some housing associations after the introduction of board remuneration. I am not aware of any research studies in this area. They would be very welcome.

In balancing the pros and cons, I think it is another case of horses for courses. Appropriate governance arrangements will vary with payments for trustees making sense for larger organisations.

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