Guidance from the wings for racing charities

Jack Berry House: one of the IJF's flagship operations

Guidance from the wings to help charities flourish
By Katherine Fidler 8:00PM 10 NOV 2016

To celebrate Trustees Week, which runs from November 7 to November 13, we spoke to several of racing's charity custodians to find out what the job involves, and the highs and lows of the role.

William Norris QC, trustee of the Injured Jockeys Fund

When did you join the Injured Jockeys Fund Board of Trustees?


What does the role involve?

Individual trustees do different things. Some, like Brough Scott and Jonathan Powell in particular, provide considerable pastoral support for beneficiaries. Valda Burke, for example, is closely involved with the Oaksey House operation, as John Fairley has been at Jack Berry House. Jeff Smith as Treasurer, with the support of Sam Waley-Cohen, is most closely involved in overseeing our finances. We meet several times a year to decide issues of policy and strategy as well considering the more difficult applications for benefits which come to the Cases Committee. Otherwise, our role is to support the chief executive and the almoners.

What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your role?

I would identify two enduring challenges. The first is in relation to the cases we see on the Cases Committee. Lawyers (of which I am one) have a saying that ‘hard cases make bad law'. This means, in effect, that one may be tempted to reach a decision that may seem to suit the facts of a particular case but which would have serious implications if applied more generally. Consistency and fairness are important in all decision-making processes. One cannot grant an application for help from someone just because he or she is well-liked and respected in the racing world any more than one should reject the application of a known villain. What matters is whether they are ‘in need'.

The second concern is rather more fundamental. The IJF has been lucky enough to have been very well supported throughout its life. It is easy to see it as a ‘wealthy' charity. But it is fundamentally important to recognise that, quite apart from our ongoing commitment to beneficiaries (such payments represent about 29% of our annual expenditure), we have now two rehab centres (Oaksey House and Jack Berry House). Soon, we will have a third with Peter O'Sullevan House in Newmarket. Quite apart from the capital costs, those centres will each need between £300,000 and £400,000 every year to run them. This represents a very substantial ongoing commitment and it has to be funded. Obviously, that is why we keep a substantial amount of money in investments where the return is (within reason) predictable.

We can also predict – more or less – what other sources of income, such as the trading arm (cards, calendars, IJF goodies) will produce. But we can never be sure of what generous supporters may decide to give us in any particular year whether in the form of large or small individual donations or legacies. What we received this year or last may be some kind of guide but it is no more than that and this makes responsible financial planning very difficult. It may help to explain why we constantly emphasise the need for people to keep supporting the IJF, at whatever level and in whatever form that may be.

However, the challenges are offset by the rewards helping deserving and delightful people who are almost always extraordinarily grateful for whatever we can do, finding oneself humbled by the generosity of those in and outside racing, and helping to support those who are involved in actually running the IJF.

Why do charities need a board of trustees?

The role of the trustees is like that of the directors of the company. We are there to oversee the good running of the Fund, to take major strategic decisions (such as whether to open a new rehab centre) as well as to decide individual applications for support from current or prospective beneficiaries. In the end, we are answerable not only to our supporters and beneficiaries but also to the Charity Commission.

What does 2017 hold for the IJF?

Too much to cover here but top of the list is to continue to support our beneficiaries through our nationwide network of wonderful almoners, to maintain the profile of the IJF and raise money to meet our very substantial commitments, to complete the Oaksey House extension (hydrotherapy, improved physio and rehab facilities with our new head of rehab, Ed Stroud) and to work towards opening Peter O'Sullevan House in 2018.

Sir Ian Good, trustee of The Racing Foundation

When did you join The Racing Foundation Board of Trustees?

I was one of the original trustees when The Racing Foundation was formed in 2012.

What does the role involve?

It involves attending meetings three to four times per year but also considering the papers in advance so that meaningful discussions can be had in arriving at our decisions. We also visit recipients of our grants, which is always interesting and informative.

What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your role?

Most rewarding is seeing The Racing Foundation's funding help a recipient deliver a project. The most challenging is trying to help charities who have not spent enough time planning the impact and effect their project will have on their business going forward.

Why do charities need a board of trustees?

In the case of The Racing Foundation, it is a grant-giving charity that was set up to invest racing's share of the proceeds of the sale of the Tote by the government. The three stakeholders in racing – the British Horseracing Authority, the Racecourse Association and the Horsemen's Group each appointed a trustee and those trustees have the responsibility of making grants to racing and thoroughbred charities.

What does 2017 hold for The Racing Foundation?

We plan to continue working with racing and thoroughbred charities to assist them in planning and delivering their objectives. Our CEO Rob Hezel and grants manager Tansy Challis look forward to working with these organisations.

Morag Gray, trustee of Racing to School

When did you join the Racing to School board of trustees?

I've been a trustee of the charity (formerly known as BHEST) since September 2009. It is great to be involved with an organisation that does such inspiring work, and to hopefully give something back. I am also proud to be a Trustee of Racing Welfare.

What does the role involve?

We normally have four formal trustee meetings each year but there is plenty of ongoing contact between the charity's small team and the trustees. We all make a point of seeing the work at first-hand, at racecourses and elsewhere.

The Racing to School board has a wide range of skills and experience, which can support the chief executive and team as required. Trustees get involved in strategic decisions and areas such as fundraising, events and communications. We have just expanded our remit and appointed a new chief executive, John Blake. The trustees were very involved in that process.

It is also essential we keep up to speed with regulations and best practice in the charity sector. We are very well supported by The Racing Foundation and our own team in this regard.

What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your role?

Fundraising is always challenging, although we have some wonderful supporters, in particular the Levy Board and The Racing Foundation. We have made some real progress in improving our profile since we changed the charity's name, but this is a relentless process within a multi-faceted and busy industry. We have a great story to tell.

The most rewarding aspect is seeing young people benefit from the numeracy, literacy and other programmes delivered by our education officers, led by Ollie McPhail and Carrie Ford. The feedback from the pupils and teachers is wonderful and confirms the positive impact we are here to deliver for our beneficiaries – over 11,000 this year.

Racing is fortunate to have a number of fantastic charities that support our own equine and human participants and workforce. Racing to School is different in that it works in partnership with the industry and others to invest in unique programmes to enhance young people's education. We also work to support career choices and employability skills. We are so grateful to all the racecourses, many trainers and stud owners who not only allow us to use their facilities but so often get involved themselves with activities to help our beneficiaries within what becomes a fast-moving and dynamic classroom.

Why do charities need a board of trustees?

It is important that we are accountable to the Charity Commission and that we stick to our agreed charitable objectives. As trustees we must ensure resources are managed diligently and that we act in the best interest of the charity. The trustees collectively ensure scrutiny and independence.

It is also important that my colleagues and I are representatives of the charity within our day-to-day activities, using our experience and networks to make a positive contribution in some way.

What does 2017 hold for Racing to School?

Racing to School has just taken on responsibility to lead the community engagement work of the Racing Together Partnership – the initiative that brings together and promotes the considerable work being done by racing's charities and commercial organisations to support its communities through education, local life and welfare. Racing Together encapsulates a real collective effort by a wide cross-section of racing to give back something valuable to its communities.

We also aim to expand the reach of our education programmes and build on the new programmes introduced this year – the Riders' and Work Programmes. We were delighted to launch the first of a five-year project with Godolphin and the Newmarket Academy and in seeing the success of a similar Beacon project centred on Aintree and its local schools.

Rod Street, trustee of Racing Welfare

When did you join the Racing Welfare Board of Trustees?

May 2016, having being persuaded by the very able chairman and chief executive respectively!

What does the role involve?

In general terms, attendance at the main board meetings and also the meetings of the fundraising committee, which focuses on the commercial and promotional aspects of Racing Welfare. In specific terms, my role involves using the commercial experience I've gained in racing to add value to the charity's activities.

What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your role?

As a newbie, getting up to speed with the many aspects of Racing Welfare is the immediate challenge. I've addressed that by spending a couple of days on the ‘shop floor' and will continue to do so as it's the fastest way to learn how an operation is really running. In terms of reward, it's simply a privilege to be part of something that makes such a positive contribution to horseracing and its many constituents. In the short time I've spent with Racing Welfare, I've been impressed by the diversity of ways it helps people in need and makes a difference to their lives.

Why do charities need a board of trustees?

For two specific reasons. One is strong corporate governance; the responsibility of a charity to manage its resources appropriately is paramount. The other is for the trustees to bring their experience and expertise to help the executive team deliver against the strategic objectives. Ideally, a board of trustees should feature a mix of skills relevant to the needs of the charity and that is definitely the case with Racing Welfare.

What does 2017 hold for Racing Welfare?

Fundraising, of course, is a primary driver and Racing Welfare operates, like all charities, in a competitive market, so it's an ongoing requirement. But of equal importance is the provision of welfare in its many guises, so it's crucial Racing Welfare reaches as far as possible in racing's numerous communities. The regional welfare teams do a tremendous job in building Racing Welfare's profile and the trustees have agreed an ambitious communications plan to support their work. The ultimate goal is that anyone who works in racing knows that what Racing Welfare is and that it is there for them.

David Hunter, trustee of Retraining of Racehorses

When did you join the RoR Board of Trustees?

From the formation of the charity in 2000.

What does the role involve?

As trustees we help, advise, guide and support the chief executive and her small and very dedicated team in how the charity operates – but very much leave the day to day work to them. We also ensure the charity complies with its charitable aims and objectives and set the medium and long term goals. The trustees represent the diversity of British Racing. I am a trustee nominated on behalf of the RCA.

What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your role?

Most challenging is ensuring the charity gets value for money on its capital and grant expenditure and making difficult decisions on where the money is best spent. The most rewarding is seeing the fruits of its success – ie. former racehorses going on to have rewarding and fulfilling second careers in other equestrian sports or roles and meeting the happy new owners of these remarkable and adaptable animals.

The charity has grown massively over the past 16 years. In 2006 one showing class was held at Hickstead, one training day in Newmarket and three centres were supported. In 2016 there are 12,000 registered horses with the charity, over 200 showing classes have been held, vulnerable horses are supported throughout the country, the volunteer regional co-ordinators have arranged over 120 activities, a four-day national show is held annually at Aintree and parades are held throughout the year at major racing festivals.

Why do charities need a board of trustees?

To comply with charitable law, to provide good governance and accountability. Trustees are not remunerated.

What does 2017 hold for RoR?

There will be more regional and national competitions covering over a dozen different disciplines from showing to polocrosse and endurance. The recently opened National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art at Palace House in Newmarket has a dedicated wing for RoR to show its work first hand to the visiting public. This is a great showcase for the charity and will house up to eight former racehorses allowing the public to get close and personal to the horses, to watch retraining demonstrations and ask all the questions they want.

    Read More at Racing Post

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