EVOLVING CHAIR: 50 Years of Continuous Stewardship
23 September 2014 at 11:10 am
In 1964 Darvell Hutchinson was appointed a Trustee of the Helen M Schutt Trust in his role as Partner of accounting firm Pannell Kerr Forster (PKF). In November he will retire ending 50 years of continuous stewardship. Hutchison shares his insights in this month’s Evolving Chair.
In 1964 Darvell Hutchinson was appointed a Trustee of the Helen M Schutt Trust (now the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust) in his role as Partner of accounting firm Pannell Kerr Forster (PKF).
Following Helen Macpherson Schutt’s death in 1951, the Helen M Schutt Trust (HMSTrust) was established with a bequest of £275,000, and administered by Wilson Bishop & Henderson Chartered Accountants (later known as Pannell Kerr Forster), the firm of Melbourne accountants that had acted for the Macpherson Schutt family.
In 1969 Hutchinson was appointed Chairman of HMSTrust and develops the strategic direction of the testamentary Trust in accordance with the Will.
In 1994 Honoured as a Member of The Order of Australia for service to the community. The same year Monash University conferred Doctor of Laws honoris causa for his contribution to the Victorian community and ‘to Melbourne’s role as the major centre of philanthropy in Australia’.
In November 2014 Darvell Hutchinson will retire as Trustee of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust ending 50 years of continuous stewardship. Here are some of his insights.
What is your organisation and what is the board structure?
I retired as Chairman of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust in August this year and step down as a trustee in November after 50 years of service to Helen, most of which as Chairman. The Trust was established under Helen’s will to benefit charitable institutions in Victoria, when she died in 1951, and has six trustees.
What attracts you to a Not for Profit or for-profit board?
Our social fabric relies on affordable access to essential goods and services, whether provided by government, for-profit or the Not for Profit sectors. Good governance is essential for any entity to deliver good outcomes for either its shareholders, stakeholders, or the community at large. My background in accounting, business and investment has enabled me to serve on many boards across my long career, and to learn from them.
What are your board’s current priorities / goals?
The Trust is committed to delivering on its vision for a strong, just and sustainable Victoria and its mission to help build fair, creative and resilient Victorian communities through initiatives that promote positive change. The Trust’s values; Respect, integrity, stewardship, collaboration and accountability underpin all of its activities.
Our investment priorities are to generate higher levels of income each year to support increased grant-making capacity and to grow the real (inflation adjusted) value of the Capital Account over time, to increase the sustainability of the Trust.
The grantmaking priorities are to develop robust internal processes that enable the Trust to be a better funder, to have strong evaluation ethics for social outcomes, and to learn lessons from such evaluations.
Is gender balance an issue for your board? Do you prioritise it?
The Trust’s benefactress, Helen Macpherson Smith was a proud, independent philanthropist in her own right and a role model for her time. Maintaining a gender balance on the board is a priority and Trustees have always been conscious to ensure that issues relating to women and children are well represented.
What has been the highlight of your work with this board?
Seeing Helen’s bequest of £275,000 in 1951 develop into a leading independent philanthropic trust, with a current net worth of $110 million after total distributions of $105 million, for the benefit of Victorian communities.
Does your board believe collaboration between organisations within your area is important? Why?
Today more than ever, grantmaking needs to be strategic, creative and collaborative. After 50 years in philanthropy, one thing I know is that significant social impacts are very hard to achieve alone. Collaborating and Partnering is one of the Trust’s five priority objectives. We expect our grantseekers to work within and across sectors and we strive to collaborate with other funders, including government and corporate sectors
Do you have any advice around governance?
Strong governance policies across the philanthropy sector should be sacrosanct, but progress continues to lag. Charitable entities, because of their privileged tax-free status, should be far more answerable for premier governance practise. The concepts of accountability, transparency, conflicts of interest, trustee terms of office, and mandated audits, are high in passive voice, but still low in actual acceptance.
Do you have any advice around mergers?
Mergers and acquisitions are accepted as a natural pathway for free-enterprise corporates in order to leverage customer service, while reducing operating costs. Sound mergers have been achieved by some medical institutions in Victoria and national integrations such as Vision Australia have been successful.
I predict that the increase in the number of Not for Profit service charities, big and small, now operating, and to some degree competing, across the Not for Profit sector will lead to an acceleration of friendly mergers. There is a degree of overlap across community services and unwarranted duplication of “back room” operating costs that could be minimised and directed to the social good.
Do you have any advice around the board’s relationship with the Chief Executive Officer?
In any organisation, it is essential that the Chairman and CEO work as a team, and with great respect for each other’s viewpoints. The culture of an organisation is greatly influenced by the strength of this relationship.
Darvell M. Hutchinson AM