A while ago, I interviewed a finance director who claimed
she could tell which department of a charity she was in, just by looking in the
Go into the finance department in her organisation, she
said, and the fridge was full of sensible sandwiches: ham and cheese on plain
brown bread. The fundraising department fridge, on the other hand, contained
only tofu, humus and sushi. The PR department fridge was always empty apart
from a bottle of sparkling wine.
I write about finance, and I mostly speak to finance experts
within the sector. When I meet them in person, at industry events, they obey
the stereotypes happily, almost joyfully.
The FDs know everyone thinks they’re boring, and they seem
to quite like it. They don’t chat for long at post-conference drinks, they
arrive ten minutes early for everything, and they wear grey suits and sensible
For some reason they seem to suffer badly from hair loss,
too. Maybe it’s the realisation that there is a substantial saving to be had
from the hairdressing budget.*
Every so often, though, I go to fundraising conferences
instead, usually when they’re talking about Gift Aid and the like.
Yesterday I went to a payroll giving conference and
felt like I’d walked into a different world. Around 80 per cent of the people
were under 35. Of those 80 per cent were female, and of those around 80 per
cent were wearing some kind of floaty, flowery skirt, a strappy top, and
excruciatingly fashionable sandals. The blokes mostly looked fit and tanned.
Not a lost follicle in sight.**
I remember a colleague coming back from a two-day
fundraising conference exhausted. “They partied all night,” she said with a
sigh, as she sipped water at her desk. “They’re just so bloody jolly. I had to
lie outright to dodge them and get to bed.”
Go to a finance conference and in the evening, the bar looks
like a desert. At most, there will be three people in it, tapping away quietly
on laptops, not talking to one another.
It’s as if every charity contains two departments as
dissimilar and as united as Danny De Vito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the
movie Twins. On one side hard facts and spreadsheets, on the other erratic
Somehow, this odd couple partnership seems in most charities
to produce good results. But I’m baffled as to how.
* In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit I am a
card-carrying baldy myself, and cannot therefore really criticise.
** I know, you can’t see lost follicles. They’ve
disappeared. But you know what I mean.