Help for not for profit and charity trustees

Guardian leader

The guardian devoted a leader to current situation with charities.

The Guardian devoted a full length leader (on 27 December 2022) to the current situation with charities in the UK: Like the communities it serves, the voluntary sector is in need of repair.

Although it is welcome to see the affairs of the sector get such coverage, the leader was rather muddled and it did not really explain why it is in need of ‘repair’ as they put it. The main points they made were:

  • the needs are rising but so are the costs of operation
  • donations have fallen (possibly, but not explained, due to an inability to collect in the street during Lockdown)
  • the super wealthy are giving less
  • A greater emphasis on short-term rather than longer term issues
  • no powerful support mechanism in comparison to the CBI, say
  • hostility from some Conservative MPs, 40 of whom have recently tried to persuade the Treasury to cut contributions to charities campaigning against government policy.

One point missing in connection with a lack of support mechanisms is that there is no dedicated minister for the sector. Despite being nearly £60bn in size, there is an undersecretary buried in DCMS whose responsibilities include sport, youth and tourism.

Nor did they discuss the role of the Charity Commission possibly because the leader writer made the assumption, like so many, that they are there to support the sector. They aren’t. Their objectives are mostly about control and policing the sector and they even admit in their Strategy that they have a limited role in influencing government policy. The support they provide is limited.

Little was made of the campaigning role charities undertake. Many social reforms we now take for granted started life as a campaign by a charity. This will often put them at odds with ministers, hence the hostility by some MPs and a desire to curb their activities.

Locally, MPs are all too willing to be seen in the company of a local charity and to get a favourable ‘photo op’ in the local paper. Charities are also willing to play this game which gives the impression to the public that everything is hunky dory. In an earlier post I cautioned against this.

The lack of a CBI equivalent is a point fairly made in the leader. With thousands of small charities, despite their total size, means their voice is not heard in the corridors of power.

Charities provide vital support to millions of people. There is need for proper recognition of their role, and the appointment of a minister of state dedicated to supporting and speaking up for the sector is a vital first step.

UPDATE: 31 December 2022. The Guardian published a letter from me on some of the topics above – see next post.


Peter Curbishley

Author of How to be a Successful Trustee ISBN 9781 913012 618

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