The past few days have been a puzzling and somewhat enraging time to be a charity leader. Despite one of the most unanimous voluntary sector lobbying campaigns I’ve known in my career, the coalition government has still seen fit to pass into law the deeply undemocratic provisions of Clause 2 of the Lobbying and Transparency Bill.
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Nearly one million under-25s are currently unemployed in the UK. This is a massive issue for the individuals affected, for our economy and for society as a whole. It seems obvious that we need to muster our knowledge, skills and resources to tackle this together, but there is a major barrier in the way: private and social sector leaders have so little experience of thinking, speaking and acting together as a matter of course that they find themselves unable or unwilling to collaborate.
The critical head injury suffered by Michael Schumacher brings back memories of the brain haemorrhage I suffered in my youth, and prompts me to reflect on how Headway, the brain injury charity, has changed the landscape since then for people in similar situations in the UK.
Charity investment has been in the news a bit, with Comic Relief found by Panorama to be investing in the less ethical end of the stock market. But it’s possible to look at this question through an entirely different lens.
Whenever someone gives to a good cause, volunteers, or even uses their social capital to spread the word, they invest in the sector. They invest money, time, love and trust. And it’s up to the sector to make sure it repays it.
That paradigm is about to get a whole lot less paradigmatic and a whole lot more real. We’re entering a new age of investment in social causes, and I think it’s going to change not just the way they communicate, but the way they operate.
Christmas is fast approaching and many of us are thinking about gifts to give this season – which got me thinking about unusual gifts left to charities in wills.
For more than 150 years, our inheritance protection and dispute resolution teams have seen a lot of examples of unusual bequests to charities, including butterfly and moth collections, antique toys, handbags and sheets of music.
Are charities becoming more business-like, or more like businesses? Tuesday night’s excellent Panorama program, All in a Good Cause, made depressing viewing. Over-compensated departing directors, unethical investments, economical accounting, loss-making fundraising events claimed to be awareness-raising triumphs; what’s to be done?
It takes time and money to engage people to support a charity – whether they are donors, fundraisers, volunteers, campaigners or members. The ability to retain and grow the value of existing supporters has never been more important. One of the most effective ways to do this is to encourage supporters to get involved in more than one way. This requires an integrated approach across teams.
There are over 10,000 charity shops across the UK and growing. But not all charity shops are having a great time. I recently read that All Aboard, the Jewish charity shop chain, has reported profits and sales are down. It seems the competition isn’t just other charity shops but Primark, £1 shops, £5 clothing boutiques and the internet. Consumers are no longer popping in to get a bargain because they can buy new so cheap.
I was recently chatting with a colleague on the importance of drafting wills and the potential that people can miss out on legacies left to them if the will is incorrectly written.
This led me to consider whether this is a familiar issue for charities.
We all like to think that we’re immune to advertising; that whatever an organisation is called, whatever its advert or website looks like, we will make decisions about whether to purchase its goods or services on purely rational principles. The truth is more prosaic. We are all heavily influenced by an organisation’s reputation and what being seen to be linked to it will say about us.
This presents unique challenges for charities. Whereas people expect, and even welcome, profit-making companies investing in branding, recent research shows that 72 per cent of people think that charities who do so are wasting their money. It’s a big ask, but I want to argue that the 72 per cent are wrong.