Challenges for charities in 2014

Sir Stuart Etherington spoke at the Wrigleys Charity Governance seminar on the 2nd October 2014 and VAL worker Kathy Faulks was there to take notes for you.

The Wrigleys Charity Governance seminar is my favourite event of the year and this year I was  not to be disappointed. Not that I ever have been disappointed! The keynote speaker- Sir  Stuart Etherington spoke eloquently and clearly about the challenges facing charities. He divided the challenges into:
       Finances of the sector
       The Charity Commission   
Campaigning and political alignment of charities

Managing charity reputation

 Finances of the sector

Sir Stuart reflected on the recent history of sector funding; with growth up to the recession. During this heady period out went public sector grants and in came contracting. But, the heady days were followed by financial crisis with a decrease in donating and the age of austerity. This meant reduced state spending with the consequence of reduced state contracts. He identified  the types of charities that have particularly suffered as a result: social care charities; employment charities and charities providing advice services. On the other hand, healthcare and overseas  development charities continued to benefit from state funding. The sector responded by moving into social enterprise areas and more collaborative work including mergers. Sadly, some charities had to respond  by closure. He warned us to prepare for more changes. He also pointed out that the vast majority of small charities have been unaffected by changes at government level and the economic climate. 

The Charity commission 

The regulator of charities has endured huge cuts itself and has less capability. Indeed, its very existence may be in question as the Commission received a damning assessment from the Public Accounts Committee. The response of the Commission has been to focus on regulatory aspects of its work. The Charity commission can no longer be regarded as “a friend to charities”. The number of statutory inquiries has increased.We can expect more scrutiny and a “risk based approach” to continue.

 Campaigning and political alignment of charities

This goes beyond the Lobbying Act. There is a perception in the political sector that the charitable sector is politicised. Sir Stuart referred to the comment made recently made by a minister that charities should stick to knitting and refrain from getting involved in politics. He wondered whether the charity Commission will review its guidance in the light of the Lobbying Act and observed that that the majority of charities will not need to  register  with the Electoral Commission as a non party campaigner.

Managing charity reputation

Sir Stuart observed that there is enormous public trust placed in charities but that there have been recent challenges:
     High pay of CEO’s (chief executive officers)
     The dilemma of campaigning and delivering public services
     Proximity to the state. For example, Welfare to Work programmes  
Unethical investments
Fundraising techniques

     Abuses of charitable tax relief     
Minimum wage and zero hour contracts

Finally, he concluded that there is a need to get beyond tactical responses to getting through to the public what charities can do. Having said that it is not reasonable to expect the public to be subjected to  too much detail.      


Comments (1)

  1. kathy faulks:
    Oct 15, 2014 at 12:28 PM

    Forgot to mention- Sir Stuart is the chief executive of the National Council For Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)

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