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Joel Joffe CBE 12 May 1932 – 18 June 2017
The trustees and staff at Mango are saddened to hear of the death of Joel on 18 June 2017. We are comforted to hear he died peacefully surrounded by the love of his closest family.
Joel founded Mango with Alex Jacobs in 1999. We will be forever grateful for the advice and support he gave as Chair and then trustee for our first 12 years. When Joel stepped down in 2012, he became our honorary President and continued to support Mango through the wonderful Joffe Trust.
Joel should be world famous for the key role he played in defending Nelson Mandela at the 1963-4 Rivonia Trial. Nelson Mandela described Joel as "the General behind the scenes in our defence". We also experienced these characteristics of Joel in a very different context, using his formidable legal and business skills to maximum impact on Mango’s development while taking very little credit.
Alex pitched the idea of Mango to Joel when he was Chair of Oxfam, (he had become an Oxfam trustee in 1980 and Chair in 1995). Joel had already used his influence and business skills to improve the efficiency of Oxfam, and so could see the potential of Mango to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the whole not-for-profit sector. "Passion and good intentions by themselves are no value to anyone without effective implementation," he said.
Joel and Alex should take the credit for the considerable progress Mango has now made in our mission to strengthen the financial management and accountability of non-governmental organisations throughout the world. We have now trained over 20,000 NGO staff in over 90 countries, placed over 650 finance staff in key roles within NGOs and helped hundreds more NGOs with expert consultancy advice. Our website has become the go-to repository of good practice and we are about to realise our long-term goal to establish international standards in the financial management of NGOs.
Joel used his amazing talents in other roles to shape key aspects of our sector well beyond financial management. In the 1960s Joel co-founded Hambro Life, which became Allied Dunbar, which was one of the first British companies to give a percentage of profits to a charitable trust. Joel arguably laid the foundations of the corporate giving culture we have today by setting up the Per Cent Club which encouraged other companies to do the same.
Joel also played a massively influential role in opening up the space for charities to start the campaigning and advocacy work that has become the hallmark of Oxfam and other agencies. When Oxfam was investigated by the Charity Commission in 1990 for its commitment to campaigning work as well as more straightforward charitable interests, he was part of the negotiating team that defended Oxfam's position. It is probably not unconnected that the Charity Commission changed its whole approach to the charitable legitimacy of campaigning and advocacy a few years later. Another massive achievement for Joel, that he never sought to take any credit for.
Mango owes its very existence to Joel. The whole NGO sector also owes Joel a tremendous debt of gratitude, for key achievements made in its fundraising environment and scope for campaigning work. As we mourn Joel’s death, it is also time to be inspired by his approach and achievements. We are now experiencing growing threats to the positive fundraising and political environment that Joel and other key pioneers helped create. I hope we can learn from Joel as we work to overcome these threats, and aspire to the same humility.
Tim Boyes-Watson, 20 June 2017
(I’d like to acknowledge the excellent obituary at Oxfam, where you can also find more detail about Joel’s time in South Africa).