Charity settles its trustee dispute

By Simon Rocker, January 8, 2009

The British Friends of the Hebrew University has reached an agreement with a former trustee who protested over the deduction of management charges from donor funds.

Geoffrey Simmonds argued that it had been unreasonable for the charity to take money from bequests to use for administration costs if the donor had been unaware of it at the time.

But this month he and BFHU chairman Brent Isaacs announced that they had resolved the dispute.

“It avoids legal action and the Charity Commission,” Mr Simmonds said. “It’s the right result.”

Mr Simmonds is joint executor of a £5 million estate left to the university by a benefactor, Millie Carew-Shaw, who died two years ago, and has introduced a number of other benefactors to the charity.

But he was disturbed to see an item in the charity’s 2006 accounts saying that it taken 20 per cent of the income of endowment funds for administration.

That would have meant deducting £60,000 annually from Mrs Carew-Shaw’s legacy, he noted.

The charity subsequently introduced a new scale of management charges applicable from October 2006, ranging from a 1.5 per cent levy on the first £50,000 on the capital of a fund to 0.15 per cent above £1 million.

Mr Isaacs said: “On reviewing the case — which had reached a fairly serious stage of conflict — I realised two things immediately.

“First, Geoffrey loves the university and has done wonders for it. And second, I did not disagree in principle with what Geoffrey had been saying on management charges given what he had said to the donors he dealt with.”

After consulting his board members, he said that he was able to reassure Mr Simmonds of two things: that “we would respect the donors; and if we had inadvertently done differently, we would undo it”.

Mr Simmonds said: “In fundraising, integrity is all-important and I am very pleased to see the BFHU exemplify the highest standards in this respect.”

Mr Isaacs is currently acting executive director, following the departure of Wendy Pollecoff, who remains on the Friends’ council. Ms Pollecoff had been the organisation’s director since September 2004.
The organisation is looking to recruit a new professional head, he said.

Last updated: 7:55pm, January 8 2009