This article is in response to several pieces that have appeared in The Rebuttal regarding the leadership of deaf charities. I can empathise with those who think that CEOs of charities are paid too much but would like the opportunity to tell the story from the other side of the fence. I am a Deaf CEO of a medium sized charity in the UK providing support to deaf people. If my salary were converted to Aussie dollars it would not reach six figures, but to justify what I earn, however much it is, I need to show the Board that I can:
· Sustain and increase the value of contracts secured
· Sustain and increase the amount of unrestricted income (fundraising and non-project funds)
· Ensuring that all staff perform their jobs efficiently
· Ensuring that all policies, operating regulations and quality marks are complied with
· Ensuring that all insurance requirements are complied with
· Ensuring all funder requirements are complied with
· Ensuring the overall efficiency of the organisation
· Developing and managing the annual budget and ensuring spending is in line with annual requirements
· Develop business and strategic plans for the organisation
· Grab opportunities that come your way
· Lead the organisation forward – staff and the Board
· Develop and sustain excellent relationships with all stakeholders
· Solving problems on the fly however large or small
· Ensuring your knowledge of issues directly and indirectly affecting your organisation is thorough and up to date (i.e. charity and company law, deafness, HR, the economy, government strategies etc)
· Communicate with all stakeholders including government representatives
· Ability to recruit the right people
The list goes on. A successful CEO must have all these attributes and more – to be blunt it is a demanding job and the incumbent needs to be a highly skilled individual. A poor CEO or one who does not have most of these attributes will surely fail. It is no easy task keeping a charity going – what is stopping funders from pulling out and awarding contracts to someone else? The CEO needs to be on his/her toes at all times and must not allow the charity to stagnate.
The past 3 years have been very draining for me personally but I am proud of my achievements – at the end of the next financial year, if all goes well, my charity will have doubled its income in only 4 years plus paying off a £250,000 overall deficit. It is extremely satisfying to see the organisation where it is today and I have plans for the future. If the charity tripled its income I would expect my salary to triple – this is a no-brainer – after all it was me who made this happen. But as a good employer I would ensure that high performance staff received some sort of reward – perhaps a promotion or a pay rise. But there are limits to what I can do. Some staff may do well but may not have the attributes to climb the corporate ladder and this is a quality I can easily identify in my workers. But everyone needs to be treated fairly and some sort of appraisal framework must be in place to ensure fairness and to prevent a staff member raising a grievance or a complaint.
Every cause has an effect and whatever you do, someone else is bound to get hurt. So if my charity triples its income other organisations are going to miss out somewhere along the line. There is only a finite amount of funds in the collective kitty for deaf services and an infinite number of organisation clamouring for a piece of the action. Someone’s gain is someone else’s loss.
Now onto the issue of charities taking over other charities. All I can say that those that “lost” had themselves to blame and it hurts to say this. If the charities that were taken over had been stronger, these “takeovers” probably would never have happened. The number one concern with every charity is money and objectives/principles come second. You need money to run a business (charities are businesses, actually) and principles alone won’t run the business, unless you are prepared to rely wholly on volunteers. So some compromises need to be made. Some charities are very clever with these compromises and some are not.
If a charity allows these compromises to favour business operations then another question needs to be asked – could the charity survive if compromises were made with regard to business operations? If not then the charity as a whole must be flawed and it could possibly find itself in a greatly weakened position.