Diary: A charity director writes

Diary A lighter take on the week. A charity director writes

It is my first day on the job as director. I arrive at 8.30am and the office is deserted. The phones begin to ring at 9am. Four callers and three messages later the staff begin to arrive. They appear startled to find me in so early. I am told that the Out Going Director (OGD) is usually in at 10am. I clarify that if we say we open at 9am then someone must be here to cover the phones and reception. I am later assured by the OGD that this morning was unusual. Staff members tell me that the organisation is like “a family”. I have visions of Mafia films, what was it that Michael Corleone said? “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

I attend my university graduation ceremony. I don gown and mortar to collect my post graduate award. I make sure that my award is announced “with distinction” as my proud family look on. I also spend time catching up with ex student colleagues, all mature students with stories of lives changed and struggles to balance working life, study and family. The feeling of relief and the prospect of weekends without study was palpable, oh joy!

I take a call at 9am for a staff member: “Hilary is expected in later, can I take a message?”

Then I am asked who I am. “I’m the director.”

The caller persists:

“Yes, I was answering the phones on Monday” and “no there isn’t anyone else here”.

The caller reveals that she is the office temp.

“You’re delayed, again OK see you when you get here.”

I make a note to speak to the operations manager about cover.

I meet with the fundraiser and patron. Coming from a local authority background this feels surreal as if I had somehow stepped back in time. Our patron is old school wealthy, courteous and caring with a belief that those who are fortunate have a responsibility to undertake work with real meaning and value to aid those who are in need. She is charming, committed to the charity and helps us network key figures in grant-making trusts. These grants are crucial to our survival and are getting harder each year to obtain.

The quarterly staff meeting is a great place to watch and learn as people interact. The state of the kitchen is raised (as it is in every workplace). I ask staff what works well and what are the challenges for the charity. I am told that the ants in the kitchen have been here for years and are a real problem. I look on in horror as they show me a six foot long line of ants on the march, busily emptying the sugar bowl. They didn’t tell me about that at the interview.

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