When I give, I give myself

11 January 2001
When I give, I give myself

It'S A mistake that European mountaineers often make. When they leave the familiar surroundings of the Alps and head south to the Andes or other ranges in the southern hemisphere, they forget that everything is the wrong way round - sunny south slopes become the equivalent of cold north faces, east becomes west, and mistakes are made. Sometimes it happens to us; we change position, make a bold move into unfamiliar territory, and get caught out by an unexpected icy blast.

This year began with the news that Alison Rogers, chief executive of the industry's charity Hospitality Action, had resigned (Caterer, 4 January, page 4). As she explains in a letter this week she has done so for personal reasons. A deteriorating weather front, coming in from outside, has forced her to abandon the climb. It is a sad loss.

When she took over at the charity, Rogers said that Hospitality Action, then known as the Hotel and Catering Benevolent Association, needed a new sense of vision and purpose. It has certainly been given that over the past two years - Rogers has introduced a new name, new image, new headquarters, new people and new code of operation.

This kind of change does not come without resistance and there have been a few casualties along the trail. That's inevitable. But a revitalised Hospitality Action has been put in place and, regardless of whether or not the architect remains to see the plans completed, it is important now that the new structure is made secure.

It is not an easy time for charities. Despite the economic abundance of the age and the tax incentives for individuals and companies making charitable donations, there is a growing resistance to giving.

Part of the problem is the bewildering choice of charities. There used to be a few major organisations - Oxfam, Christian Aid, Barnardo's and the like - dominating the UK scene. Now there are more than 180,000 charities registered in England and Wales, ranging from Art Therapy in the Community to the Zebra Trust.

In this fiercely competitive environment it is important, therefore, that the hospitality industry's own charity - that's your charity - gets the support it deserves.

For its part, Hospitality Action must consolidate on the progress it has made over the past two years. Streamlining the operation and making it modern is one thing; the enrolment of a few major players to donate large sums of money is another. But the net has to be cast wider. If the industry is to develop a sense of ownership for what is, essentially, its own benevolent fund, smaller players and individuals have to be encouraged to give support, and that support has to be recognised.

A modern charity must be run like a business and, as any hotelier, restaurateur or food service operator knows, a business, to be successful, must stay in touch with its market. It must know which hemisphere it is in, and where the icy blasts might come from and why.

Forbes Mutch, Editor, Caterer &Hotelkeeper

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