The outgoing director of finance and information services at Oxfam, Bob Humphreys, has said that the risks charities face today are far greater than in previous years.
Speaking to delegates at the Charity Finance Summit 2015, he said that charities were now facing greater external threats than they had to deal with in the past.
He said: “Charity used to be synonymous with caring, with philanthropy, and its motives and operations were almost above question.” Yet he said that today it “does seem that risks for charities are greater than at any time I can think of”.
He believes that the world had become “a much less sympathetic place now and we are facing external threats which could not have been imagined a generation ago”.
He explained that finance directors who are “normally a key part of any charity’s risk management framework” had a “vital role to play in informing the discussion with trustees and external stakeholders, as well as operationalising the processes and controls which are needed.”
Elaborating about his own experience of the position, he said that finance directors needed to be that “critical friend” within the management team, that would “ask questions on the basis of evidence, rather than intuition”, as well hold colleagues to account “for making genuine changes in approach as a result of learning from the mistakes of the past”.
He said the role was not all about money, adding that finance directors are “probably the only person who has an organisation-wide knowledge of the key financial trends and drivers”.
He went on to tell delegates that charities have been the subject of accusations that trustees have taken “their eye of the ball”, and of charity executives being paid “banker-style bonuses” and that they had become a “soft target”.
He praised the sector for being open and transparent, but said with the additional public pressure, more still needed to be done.