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No cold calling: a decisive moment for fundraising self-regulation

The world of fundraising self-regulation has a key decision to make. How should it respond to the lack of clarity in the Code of Fundraising Practice on whether fundraisers should knock on a door with a ‘no cold calling’ sticker on it?

Overfriendly Scots government is stifling our independence

In February I attended the launch of the final report of the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector. 

It was something of an epiphany: I was back in the political and intellectual climate and culture in which I grew up. I sensed once more an independent voluntary sector that knew and felt its own strength, and its own particular duty in a truly democratic society: robustly expressing a range of diverse and fiercely independent perspectives on the world. I instinctively felt at home in a way I have never truly have in the past 13 years working within the Scottish third sector, for the past five of these at a senior policy level.

Charities should campaign with vigour in this general election

As the general election campaign gathers pace over the coming weeks, it is vital that charities and other civil society organisations actively involve themselves with the campaign.

Franchising: not just for coffee chains

I’m often reminded of a cartoon I once saw showing two fundraisers, sitting in a bar, looking depressed. One is bemoaning to the other how unsexy the charity he works for is, while the other looks on unbelievingly.

I run the charity Changing Tunes, and it really is about as unsexy as you can get. We work with prisoners and ex-prisoners; even the ones who have committed the most horrific crimes, using music teaching, rehearsing, recording, performance, improvisation and composition to aid their rehabilitation. This unsexiness makes fundraising interesting, to say the least. So when we decided to expand nationally from our regional base, we took a long hard look at how to do that in a sustainable way.

Should charities have lists of banned words?

“We prefer not to use the word celebrity”, a fundraiser for a major NGO told me some time ago. I’d used the phrase “celebrity supporters” in a magazine I was editing for the charity. The charity made much use of high-profile celebrities. She wanted it changed.

What can we use instead? Something like, “our friends and supporters from the worlds of music, fashion, sport and media”, was her suggestion.

Not a happy start to 2015 for charity pension schemes

Many UK charities will have received some unwelcome news in the opening months of 2015 from their local government pension providers. While the funding position overall appears to have deteriorated, the change is not considered material enough to alter the underlying contribution rates. However, there is a sting in the tail for smaller charities in particular.

Mergers are worth funding – even if they don’t work out

Third Sector has reported that the Cabinet Office awarded £95,000 in grants to two pairs of charities that explored mergers and ultimately chose not to press ahead. To some this might have raised questions about why grant money was spent on mergers that appeared to be unsuccessful –but this is completely the wrong way to look at it. The sector desperately needs more money to support mergers, not less, and we also need a strong dose of realism about what funding can achieve.

The new Sorp misses a trick

It feels a long time ago now that the Charity Commission launched a consultation, in summer 2013, on a new draft of the Statements of Recommended Practice for charities’ accounts.

The not-for-profit sector has undergone some difficult times in recent years, and has changed a great deal in the 18 or so months since the consultation launched. So there’s certainly a debate to be had about whether the new Sorp is fit for purpose and whether it addresses the developments of the last two years, such as increased demands on public trust in the sector. Two of the biggest issues the public have in regards to the charitable sector – whether donations are reaching the end user, and whether donations are being used to fund large salaries at the top of the organisation – are firmly finance issues.

Infrastructure: the market takes the place of public service

There is growing evidence of an emerging crisis in the world of local voluntary action. Voluntary and community sector organisations are struggling to maintain their services at a time when the need for them has never been greater, and they are finding it increasingly difficult to access the resources to enable them to respond to this.

The future looks bright for charities controlled by councils

Earlier this month the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator released its review of the operation of arms length external organisations, or charities that are subject to council control or influence.

Although the report was initiated in response to concerns about potential risks to Aleos, it actually has a positive conclusion – namely that this type of charity has a lot to offer the sector, local councils, and the general public.