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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Charity merger – an alternative view

It is hard not to have some sympathy for those who believe that by merging three of the Institute’s charity funds into one substantial, financially robust organisation, there are savings for the CIoJ as a whole and benefits for members in particular. Administration costs would be reduced and a larger fund would be available to disburse more to those seeking help from the Benevolent or Pension Funds, if ever required.

Conversely, it is worth pointing out that, at present, both of those funds meet all their commitments, without requiring financial back-up from any other source.

However, as a longstanding Trustee of the Orphan Fund, I share the reservations of some of my colleagues who fear that such a merger will shift the focus of Orphan Fund Trustees. While it is true that Orphan Fund trustees would probably form the backbone of a new Fund committee, they are concerned that the merger, inevitably, will dilute their commitment to our orphans. That commitment and knowledge of the recipients has been built up over a number of years through personal contact and beneficiaries being invited to Institute functions.

Obviously in the event of a merger of three funds, it would be necessary to reduce the number of Trustees from each individual fund to ensure that the revised fund committee remained manageable, reasonably lean, and, of course, limited trustee expenses. The downside is that some committed and loyal members would no longer play as full a part in Institute affairs.

Previous organisational changes, unhappily, have tended to reduce grass-roots involvement; for example, what happened to membership of the East and West Midlands Regions when a merger was proposed? Involvement and membership both slumped! The re-structuring of the Institute’s Council, which cut the direct link ensuring that Institute Regions and Divisions were automatically represented on that body, had a similarly damaging effect.

My previous experience of “rationalisation” in the Institute – although always very well-intended – does not make me sanguine about the outcome this time. I believe we need to tread very carefully.

Paul Leighton, Immediate Past President, Trustee, Orphan Fund.