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charity begins at the council offices?

August 3, 2011

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth by those (charities) who will lose out from the cuts in government spending, while others have suggested that it will enable charities to sharpen up their act, get fundraising, and cut the apron strings to government.

What has not been mentioned is that these charities are (were)

1. doing what government asked them to do in delivering contracts that local councils wanted to outsource.

2. encouraged (persuaded) by the sector and the state that they were best placed to do so, and that this would enable them to diversify.

Of course, with hindsight (or even a little foresight) it was always going to end in disaster. The problem is that charities in general are not there to do what central or local government can and should do. The charities that went down this route forgot what it is they are about.

Which is: Charities exist to link donors with a need or cause and enable that need or cause to be remedied. Donors are also taxpayers, when we pay our taxes we expect (surely we are entitled to expect) that this money is spent on those things that are for the common good of society, law and order, education, healthcare, emergency services, governance, roads, rubbish collection, etc. and that this should include caring for those in society that for social, physical (age and infirmity), or economic reasons cannot look after themselves.

Charities are there to recognise that where there are gaps in the system something is done, it is often as much about identifying the need and demonstrating that there is a solution than meeting that need in the longer term. Once the project/charity has a proven model it is hoped that the state will take responsibility for the provision of that service.

this leads to a second issue, which will only get worse as more charities take up the challenge of “sharpening their act, getting fundraising, and cutting the apron strings” there is no new money out there. Right now more and more great causes are fighting harder and harder for the ever diminishing donor £.

My contention is that there will be no new money and donors out there until and unless we (as a charity sector) first challenge the state to deliver on it’s obligations to us as tax payers. (and I’m sorry, but if that means less money in the armed forces or the arts than we would wish we still need to prioritise caring for the weak and vulnerable in our society – that is the bench mark of a civilised society)

and secondly that we get smarter at meeting need and finding new ways of solving problems. It is innovation that I as a donor want to support, I am more than happy to pay for a cure, or buy a goat, or whatever,  if only I knew that it will help stem the overwhelming flood of people needing cures or goats. At the moment we (as a sector) are either spending our resources in meeting short term aims that will never solve the long term problem, or researching solutions that will be delivered by companies that make a profit from them.

So some charities will close, possibly those that were set up to deliver state services – in which case let’s put pressure on councils to prioritise the vulnerable rather than pensions and administration. Others will close that have taken the strategic choices to be funding led, rather than need led, so be it. But lets hope some will reconnect with their mission and purpose and dream up new ways of caring for the people and planet that we live on.

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