Help for not for profit and charity trustees

Captain Tom

One of the stand out stories of the Covid period and lockdown was Captain Tom’s walk which ended up raising something like £38m. It inspired the nation and was an example, par excellence, of someone doing a small selfless act which had enormous and beneficial results.

Sadly, the Charity Commission has launched an enquiry on 16th June and one issue is the trademark ‘Captain Tom’. Sir Tom’s daughter, Hannah Ingram-Moore and her husband Colin, are directors of a company Club Nook Ltd and the investigation centres on the profits derived by the company using her father’s name.

It may turn out that they were being naïve and did not know or consider the implications of what they were doing. Captain Tom is closely linked to the charity – its raison d’etre – and so any profits coming from that which are likely to be considerable, should go to the charity. Most people would assume that to have been the case.

It just shows however that it only takes a small error such as this and it becomes news. The good they will have done is largely overlooked. The brand has been damaged and rectifying it will take a long time and a lot of effort. It demonstrates the importance of a charity’s brand and how fragile it is.

Another issue which emerged from the accounts was that the daughter was paid £100,000 pa which does seem excessive.

What were the trustees’ role in this? Did they know and if so did they ask questions? Or was this a case of ‘founder syndrome’ where the personality of the founder so dominates its management that the trustees just become cyphers? No doubt in time we shall find out. This is one of the issues I discuss in my book.

Peter Curbishley

Author of How to be a Successful Trustee

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