Amanda McLean’s resignation after only four
months as chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising is a huge talking
point in the sector. It’s the second most read story of the year on Third
Sector‘s website, with a dozen comments left by readers and letters still
coming in to the magazine.
Her departure can hardly fail to have a
destabilising effect on the institute. Organisations need strong leadership in
difficult times like these, and it will be several months before someone else
can be recruited.
McLean’s stated reason for resigning is
that she has small children and needs to spend more time with her family. The
children have not suddenly appeared since she took the job, and ideally both
sides in the recruitment process would have made a realistic assessment of this
question before making their decisions. If such assessments were made, they
have proved to be faulty.
McLean’s CV shows that she has stayed for
only two years in her last three jobs. One would have thought that the
institute would want to be confident that its next leader was likely to say for
a minimum of three years, and preferably longer. Again, if this question was
explored, a faulty judgement was made.
If a parting is amicable, as it is asserted
to be in this case, one might also expect the jobholder to work their notice in
order to smooth the process of recruiting a successor. But McLean is going
The explanation offered is that it would
not be a good idea for her to stay because people would be expecting her to
outline her plans for the organisation, which would no longer be possible
because of her imminent departure.
These are always difficult and sensitive
matters, and it is easy and potentially misleading to speculate without the
full facts and to pass judgement with hindsight. We do not know the pressures
and problems of the recruitment
process, for example – who the other applicants were, and what choices there
were. But speculation is inevitable.
For what it is worth, my own feeling after
several short meetings with McLean and one longer one was that she was not
settling comfortably into the role. It was therefore not a great surprise when
the news broke – although it was a bit of an embarrassment for Third Sector
because we had just published the first detailed interview with her.