There has been much in the press and media about how much (or little) we give to charity. Putting the inevitable debate about the accuracy of statistics to one side, I feel the story has missed the point, particularly when comparing British giving to American.
If there is a defining difference between the British and American culture it is about the role of money. In America, everything has a price. In Britain, I believe that we place a greater emphasis on support, that has no price. Whether it’s volunteering on a regular basis, caring for others, or just being there to help out, the value of what we give is worth far more than the value of our financial donations.
I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t be giving more funds to good causes, but it is also worth stopping to think for a moment about the value of your time given to help others. As businesses know, time is money, and is equally valuable whatever you do with it.
There is a debate about whether charities should record the value of non financial contributions (particularly volunteers time) in their accounts to show the true value of their “receipts”. Needless to say this has been contentious. After all, is an hour of one person’s time worth the same as another? Do we value time on the basis of what it is worth to the giver or the recipient?
What we give is personal and should reflect our ability to give, which might mean its less about money, and more about our skills and experience. To me, the important thing is that we give what we can to the community that we are part of. Sometimes just giving time is the most valuable donation of all.
Who is harder to please, trustees or shareholders?
There is a perception that professionals in the public or third sector are not up to the demand of the private sector. The cut and thrust of commercial life, with private equity funding, hard nosed corporate deals, and focus on the bottom line is thought of as a tougher environment than the soft, touchy feely world of charities and public services.
I beg to differ.
Having worked in both sectors, I can happily state the obvious, that they are different. Beyond that, the range of stakeholders in a third sector organisation requires more than attention to profit and shareholder return. Financial sustainability is key to every organisation, but so are the people.
The single minded pursuit of profit in a commercial business is sweetened by the financial rewards that individuals are offered. The third sector has long realised that such incentives can be offset by greater flexibility, offering a quality of life, and recognition of the difference that each person makes.
Those who lead commercial organisations usually do so with a combination of the carrot and the stick. As an employee, this simplifies the relationship. In an organisation that is led by passion, profit is not enough to be deemed a success.
A shareholder’s primary duty of care is their financial return, a board of trustees asks for far more than that. Trustees are quite rightly harder to please. The commercial world could learn a lot from them.
Most businesses operate with very little money in the bank. Some just operate perpetually on an overdraft, or with just enough to keep the bank manager happy.
To some, this is “situation normal”, and many organisations exist in this financially precarious state for months and even years. Having very little money is not a crime, nor is it always a sign of instability. Money in the bank is only working for the bank, think about what you could be doing with your cash to further your own business goals.
But when it happens to you for the first time, or if you walk into a role, or organisation, in a position of responsibility for the first time it can seem a frightening situation. Questions like “Will we be able to pay our staff”, “How can I please the screaming creditors”, or “The bank manager might pull the plug”, can keep even the strongest of us awake at night.
The first thing to do is not panic. Knee jerk reactions might further de-stabilise the organisation and, at worst, tip you over the edge.
Work out who owes you money. Chase it, hard.
Work out who you owe money to. I suggest you are open and honest with them. I would rather be thought of as a “slow payer”, than a “no payer”.
Take control – write down your realistic financial goals. Then write down what you need to do to achieve them. Then start doing those things.
Perhaps the best advice is to talk with someone who has been in that situation themselves (and survived!). It might not immediately solve your problem, but you might gain some strength, insight, and develop some tactics to help you pull through.
Attended the launch of Creative Republic last night in Coventry. Having lived and worked in and around the city for many years, it never ceases to amaze me how much there is going on and to see here. And yet…
How is it the city still has an air of despondency, why can’t it find the key to successfully promoting itself, what will it take for outsiders to take it seriously?
It struck me that there is a comparison with our economy at the moment. On the surface, it’s all doom, gloom and despair, and yet underneath there is a vibrant and enthusiastic marketplace.
What will it take to change the perception? Maybe those who exist to make money at other people’s expense need to visit Coventry.