As co-founder of the first Tibet Support Group UK (which morphed into ‘FREE TIBET CAMPAIGN’ about 1997) which was formed in connection with HH the Dalai Lama’s UK visit in 1988 (and which served, at the time, as a model and template for other similar groups to be formed around the world – it was in the forefront of the global Tibet support movement which mushroomed after 1988, in fact), I can add an insider’s insight here.
After helping to form, nurture and develop this seminal UK group from day one myself, acting as Director and holding its meetings in my own London office to start with, I continued on the management committee (Board) and as hon.treasurer of the group, until about 2000, when I was voted off the board. Who forced me out? It was a clique who opposed my recommended financial policy as hon.treasurer. Why did they do this, what was the problem? It happened that I was experienced and portrayed by certain colleagues as ‘difficult’ because I tried to insist, as hon.treasurer, that whatever funds were raised by the fund raisers in small donations (on the back of the suffering of the Tibetans in Tibet) should be spent in the most effective way possible within a reasonably short space of time, as this is what all those generous small donors themselves would SURELY want.
However, the Chair of the Board (supported by a narrow majority), disagreed. He opined that we must be very economical and save up as much as possible of the funds raised and keep them in a deposit account at the bank, as a cushion, in case of future shortages, in order to guarantee 100% that we would be able pay future salaries and rent, even if our income dried up altogether. Against my recommendation as treasurer, he persuaded a majority of the board to adopt the policy that we should accumulate THREE YEARS BASIC RUNNING COSTS – £150,000 at the time – and keep them in reserve, on deposit, earning interest at the bank. His stated long term plan was even worse that this – it was to increase this reserve to cover TEN YEARS RUNNING COSTS.
I opposed this policy as hon.treasurer tooth and nail, since I saw it as not only as selfish, insecure, ultra-conservative, unnecessary, self-indulgent and a wrong priority but also a betrayal not only of the donors’ own wishes but also of the Tibetans’ in Tibet who were suffering under the Chinese jackboot (and on whose back we were raising funds). I argued that reserves should not exceed funds sufficient to cover current liabilities, and to spend all the rest of our donations received, as and when received, in the most effective possible way to achieve our aims. As a result of my efforts, I was voted off the board and basically thrown out, after founding and supporting the group for a dozen years as a volunteer.
I hope this gives readers an insight as to where the kinds of symptoms you have noted (Editor’s note: reference to previous post) in the attitudes and policies of the UK Tibet-support movement have originated.
Comments received from Mr Sean Jones March 13, 2013
Please note that we are happy to extend to ‘Free Tibet’ the opportunity of a rejoinder to these claims.