It was best intention to use my blog to give a little insight, to anyone interested, into the inner workings of the charity, the challenges we face day to day, the processes and thoughts we work through and overcome to bring our services to those who need them the most.
As it has turned out, the complexity and pressing nature of the day to day job has meant that my blog posts have been less frequent than I would have liked, and often subject focused, rather than a commentary of the behind the scenes.
So I am going to attempt to give a little insight, without compromising any commercial sensitivities, or upsetting any potential or current relationships, of the delicate path that the modern charity is forced to walk, as it makes its way through growth and development and the processes of delivering quality services to those most in need.
It is at all times, the most privileged position to hold, one of CEO of a local charity. It is without doubt, the most challenging, exciting, empowering and complex role I have ever undertaken, and certainly has continued to surprise and challenge me in equal measure this last 5 years.
I still today, continue to be surprised, particularly at the level of misunderstanding of the concept of charity, applied to our local status, reputation and of course service provision.
A long time ago, when I first entered the sector, it was apparent that the traditional form of charity, the benevolent charity, the charity of giving from donations was slowly dying and making way for a more commercially astute, business savvy charitable sector, charged with the delivery of service contracts, production of outputs and now outcomes, and measuring impact, whilst at the same time meeting regulatory expectations, legislative change, and of course, all of the myriad of hurdles that present every employer in the country. As a person new to the sector, i could see that, it was evident nearly 20 years ago.
Yet today, our local charity is still met with critique and disappointment, that we employ staff and charge for our services. surprisingly, and probably the biggest shock to me, is that the critique doesn’t come from our customers and beneficiaries, their relatives and carers, because this cohort of people is grounded in reality and fully expect to pay for services, and in fact relish the opportunity to shift from service user to customer, taking control of their customer experience and speaking out if they are dissatisfied in any way, resolving issues and improving the customer experience along the way.
But that the disappointment and critique in the main come from those who actually ought to be best placed, in a position of oversight and overall responsibility, and having occupied that space for the past 20 years, really should have seen the changes going on around them, and the changes being forced through new laws, more commercial processes applied to local service procurement and of course the micro processes created by their own establishments which have over time, nudged, pushed and forced charities to make the change we have witnessed.
How is it, that people of power, control and influence, occupy a shielded utopia that is so far removed from reality that the impact of their decisions are a) never questioned and challenged and b) so diametrically opposed to the very sector they rely on to deliver services, that their statements grossly offend with a level of ignorance that defies belief?
Imagine the frustration of trying to set a budget for a service which is very much needed, with a growing market, with increasing costs of staff, training, regulation with an ever decreasing income to cover those costs, imagine that business model, imagine that you have 5 or 10 services like that, with the contributions from those services being so small, that the overhead costs of the organisation are only just covered, imagine too that you are charged with growing the provision to meet a rapidly growing need, with no specific additional income other than what you can draw from a competitive market place, imagine the other issues that run alongside, responsibility for an organisation that has become a large local employer, of well over 120 staff, that operated within a tightly regulated environment, CQC inspections, data protection legislation changes, safeguarding, health and safety, etc etc, and imagine all of that in a context where you fully understand that you don’t pay your staff the best salaries in the market place, because you have limited funds, that you certainly cannot compete with other commercial organisations that pay approximately 20-30% higher salaries for equivalent posts
Imagine how you might feel if those people of power and control made a very public statement about “charities paying Chief Executives over inflated salaries” and “Charities have grown fat on the Government purse”
I can tell you that the level of frustration is enormous, hearing statements like that, underline that the new charity sector has so much work to do, to change the false perception of charities locally, and probably nationally too. Hearing statements like that, from people who are clearly ill informed or ignorant, perhaps both, feels like they are personally attacking me, my staff and volunteers, despite all of the amazing work we do, and have done in the community for such a long time. It uncovers my most protective instinct, to stand at the front of my team and my customers and to shout back on behalf of us all.
If you ask our customers, they know the truth, they understand the amazing work we do, the huge contribution we make to the local economy, local employment, excellent service provision, and they value the way in which we continue to strive to make our services the very best value for money that we can.
It is, at times, very frustrating indeed, to be party to all of the good work happening within charities locally, and yet party to the nonsensical statements made about local charity and have to sit tight and reserve comment for when I have calmed down a bit and considered my response.
It is my comfort to know, that those people making the most preposterous statements will of course come full circle, because time is unstoppable, and they will become old.
Perhaps they might even need a local charity like ours. Lets hope the future charity sector locally has withstood the onslaught of unfair critique, or it might not have survived to support those who shouted such nonsense.