Oliver Twist famously asked Mr Bumble, the workhouse Beadle, for "More" in Lionel Bart’s fabulous musical version of Charles Dickens’ novel. We all remember the response he got (“MORE?”) as well as the incredulity of the other boys who could not believe anyone could be so impertinent (or naive) to have even thought of asking that question.
What happens when charity trustees want some more? What happens when they want to spend something extra on their beneficiaries? Can they ask for more, and who should they ask? Who is Mr Bumble today? This is more real than one might imagine; Camelot has just announced that last year it gave £300m less to good causes than the year before as sales decline. Who will make that up for the voluntary sector? The Office of Budget Responsibility has just forecast lower growth, so lower tax revenues, so lower support for the most vulnerable. From whom should trustees ask for more?
One contemporary version of Mr Bumble are charity trustees themselves, and through them their investment managers. If trustees will not tolerate the ups and downs of a higher returning investment portfolio, then there will be no more. The question must be for trustees first – is there more they can earn for their beneficiaries? After all, without risk there is no reward, so should they take more risk. These are difficult questions of risk appetite, but after all where would young Oliver be now without his moment in the limelight?