The Presidents Club: Going…Going…Gone!

And good riddance to an awful event.

Surprisingly, the income from this annual embarrassment had rocketed up in recent years from £541k in 2012, to an astonishing £2m in 2017, and the event hadn’t lost any of its attraction to very wealthy men, influential men and male celebrities, despite Harvey Goldsmith resigning from the charity a couple of years ago. Harvey presumably opened his contacts file and hit the phones.

As a fundraiser, I want to know how they got such a wealthy crowd to attend and then to give so much. It can’t have been just the chance to attend a sleezy groperama can it? Wealthy people can misbehave all too effectively on their own. Rather, I would suggest, it was access to each other in a place where they could feel their wealth, influence or fame was placing them on a par with people they could then think were their equals no matter how abjectly boring or, as it turned out, boorish they behaved. Buying a table meant they could say to their friends, “Look who I hang out with…” Bidding too much for a posh prize meant they could throw their money around, compete with each other and show off with the excuse it was all for a good cause.

I would suggest that degrading the waitresses did little to help the attendance or increase the fundraising, though keeping it as an all-male event and letting the alcohol flow probably increased the bids as ‘alpha’ males fought to establish dominance over each other. Maybe I have missed some deep psychological link here or maybe I just find the whole thing abhorrent and unfathomable – what were the trustees thinking of? Especially at a time when fundraising per se is under serious scrutiny. Stupidity treading hard on the heels of a lack of moral standards.

As a consultant, I would suggest three things trustees and staff can do to avoid this happening on their watch.

  1. Check your harassment policy and make sure it protects everyone and includes the behaviour of trustees themselves. I have seen trustees behaving badly with female staff and failing to keep each other in order.
  2. Check your sources of income – what are those local groups etc. up to? Where do those eyewatering donations come from? Do you have an ‘Acceptance of Funds Policy’?
  3. Follow London Transport’s rule: See it, say it, sort it!

Finally, a last word to the government: Just what were you thinking when the Coalition axed the harassment provisions in the Equalities Act? Let’s see if Teresa May really believes the condemnation of this event she has made by reinstating those provisions and doing something practical to help safeguard women in the workplace.

John Baguley, Chair, International Fundraising Consultancy