The hysteria over paying trustees

To my mind, there is currently a lot for people in the third sector to be angry about. Sky-high youth unemployment. Yet another failure to reform the funding of social care. Scandals like those at Winterbourne View residential hospital. More children growing up in poverty.

But it turns out that if you really want to get the leaders of the charity sector angry, the thing to do is to propose that the regulatory regime should be changed to make it easier for charities to pay their trustees should they wish to.

Now personally I don’t feel particularly strongly on this. I wouldn’t see paying trustees as a panacea for some of the sector’s governance problems. I can see the arguments against. Payment wouldn’t make much difference to my willingness to be a trustee or not. The issue doesn’t really excite me or make me want to go into battle on one side or the other. Meanwhile, Acevo has no plans to pay its own trustees, and the vast majority of charities take the same position.

But the fact is that some charities do want to pay their trustees. And the question that Lord Hodgson posed is not “is this good or bad?”, or even “should this be legal?”. As things stand, the regulatory regime’s answers to those two questions are “it depends on the individual circumstances”, and “yes, if you get permission from the Charity Commission”. The question Hodgson posed is different to the two above. He asked: “in each individual case, when a charity considers paying its trustees, who is best placed to make the judgement on whether it should – the charity whose money it is, or the commission?”

And the answer, according to most of the sector’s umbrella bodies (and some borderline hysterical twitterage), appears to be that under absolutely no circumstances should the individual charity be trusted with such a decision. Am I the only person who finds this a bit odd?

Ralph Michell is the director of policy at Acevo

  • Chris Hornet

    Actually the issue that gets charity leaders most irate is the thought that Govt might want to take away the tax breaks that extremely rich people get for giving and treat them the same as when us normal taxpayers give.

    I struggle to see why trustess need paying? Once again payment seems to equate to competence – paid trustees obviously being better than volunteer trustees, which hasn’t worked particularly well for our banks has it?

    This is actually a very simple issue – it’s understanding volunteer motivations, recognition and recrutiment. Unfortunately many large organisations not only fail to understand the concepts of volunteer management but fail to understand that trustees are volunteers and that the same principles apply.

  • stolen stolen

    But Ralph, surely the practice of spin is not needed here from you for we all know the Commission is there to regulate the rationale for the decision and not make the decision.

  • Wally Harbert

    It is unhelpful when Acevo dismisses people who disagree with it as hysterical. If it can not argue its case sensibly it should shut up

  • Kevyn Jones

    It is not the charity’s money full stop, it is the charity’s money held on trust.

    I cannot see the advantage of paying trustees, but I can see three disadvantages.

    How can trustees expect people to volunteer to help their chatrity if they themselves demand payment?

    How can trustees expect supporters to donate to their charity if they themselves take money out of it?

    Trustees can be trustees for good reasons (e.g. a concern for the beneficiaries) or bad reasons (e.g. to massage their ego or to advance their own agenda). To receive payment gives one more bad reason to become a trustee.