On Thursday I spoke as a panellist at an event hosted by the UN to mark the International Day of Charity.
We had a lively and thought-provoking discussion on the role of charities in alleviating poverty. I strongly believe charities have and will continue to have a vital part to play in achieving this ambitious goal.
And it is important to take stock and reflect on where we are at such forums, even if the cynics among us might sometimes question how much of a difference such debates actually make to charities trying to make a difference.
Is the lobbying bill the biggest breach of the Compact since government and sector formalised their relationship in 1998?
The Prime Minister said after the Syria vote that he respected the people’s voice. By the following Tuesday, the government had set about gagging it, bringing a deluge of protest, mostly from citizens concerned about freedom of speech and the potential jailing of campaigners. Fortunately ministers have now backed off, at least to some extent.
But no MP asked in the lobbying bill second reading debate if Cabinet ministers had exemplified a Compact way of working. The Compact has sunk so low that the word wasn’t uttered, and Nick Hurd and Chloe Smith weren’t even in the debate. Go figure why.
To the recent comments by William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, “that high chief executive pay could bring charities and the sector into disrepute,” the defence has been that “if you want talent and expertise you need to pay the market rate”.
At a recent event I got ‘stuck’ with someone who was very keen to emphasise how good they were at their job. Without a sniff of modesty, they told me how their sales had never been higher, how all their staff loved them and that generally it was a blessing they had been recruited into the role.
This week’s news that the Charity Commission has suspended the website Charitygiving.co.uk has caused more than ripples of alarm through our industry.
It has created “serious concerns about the trustees’ management of the fundraising portal and the charity’s financial situation”. It has prompted media attention and responses from similar services, like JustGiving, to reassure their users, demonstrating rigour in their practices of ring-fencing cash and controlling how it is released.
Last October, I embarked on a part-time masters in voluntary sector management with the prospect that after two years I would leave CASS Business School with a toolkit of management and leadership skills ready to change the world.
Recently I did something that I seldom do. I blurred the clearly defined boundaries between my professional and personal life. My error? I put out a call for people to volunteer in their communities as my Facebook status update. The response was illuminating. Anyone would’ve thought I’d just asked people to sell their mothers down the river.
This year Birmingham YMCA has benefited from two bequests. I’m now in my 11th year as a charity chief executive and, to my knowledge, this is the first time we’ve actually had the good fortune to be remembered in someone’s will.
But those two donations have made a huge difference to our ongoing capital appeal and mean that we can now proceed to begin building work on a new centre with some confidence.
In an age of 24-hour media, when this morning’s news item on the Today programme is old news by the time Cash in the Attic has been to its first auction, is there still a place for awareness campaigns? In my opinion there absolutely is – but only if the awareness campaign harnesses all the opportunities to raise the profile of its cause and achieve its aims.
The Public Accounts Committee published its conclusions and recommendations on 4 June in relation to the Cup Trust. Among other things the committee concluded that it did not believe that the Cup Trust ever met the legal criteria to qualify as a registered charity as it was set up as a vehicle for tax avoidance. The committee also felt that the Charity Commission should have been alert to tax avoidance owing to the Cup Trust’s corporate trustee, which is based in the British Virgin Islands.