Sunday, March 25, 2007

Small charities no longer forced to register with Charity Commission

Up to 38,000 small charities are now able to opt out of producing annual registration reports to the Charity Commission, potentially saving the sector £1.3 million in staff costs.

The latest element of the Charities Act, which comes into force on 23 March, means charities with an annual income below £5,000 are no longer compelled to register themselves with the regulator. The previous threshold was just £1,000. Small charities which hold an endowment or own land will also not be forced to register.

According to the Cabinet Office, an estimated 20 hours of trustee time will be saved for each of the 1,500 small charities that register for the first time each year following the change in registration rules.

Any registered charities that fall below the new £5,000 income thresholds will now be able to choose whether to de-register. All charities will, however, remain under the regulatory jurisdiction of the Charity Commission.

Source: Charity Times News Alert 21st March 2007

Olympics Lottery cash diversion won’t affect sector, says government

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has claimed that despite the diversion of £675 million in lottery money to fund the 2012 Olympics, there will be no impact on lottery cash earmarked for the voluntary and community sector.Speaking before the Commons, culture secretary Tessa Jowell reported an increase of the Olympic budget from £2.4bn to £9.3bn, with £2.2bn to be taken from the National Lottery. She confirmed that Lottery good causes with the most impact on people’s lives – through the voluntary sector – would be protected and that it was the government’s intention that existing projects need not be endangered.

Commenting on Jowell’s speech, minister for the third sector Ed Miliband said: “After today’s announcement, the voluntary sector will get the same level of resources from the Big Lottery Fund that they would otherwise have received. Instead, the Olympic transfer will come from that portion which was expected to go to statutory agencies. I hope this is seen as a fair and equitable outcome by the voluntary sector and will be welcomed.”

Acevo’s chair John Low confirmed that the decision would indeed be welcomed, saying: “Our members will be very pleased with today’s announcement, which will preserve the sector’s level of funding from the Big Lottery Fund. I would like to pay tribute to all of them for their work on this campaign.”However, chair of the Big Lottery Fund Sir Clive Booth’s reaction was not so cheery: “I very much regret that it has been necessary to divert a further £425m of the Big Lottery Fund’s good cause resources to support the 2012 Olympics infrastructure,” he said, “but I am pleased that we will be able to protect existing programmes and the money earmarked for the Third Sector.“I recognise that the government’s decision will be a cause of concern for the many organisations across the UK who have been campaigning against any further diversion. We have, however, fought hard to minimise the level of diversion and to secure the best deal we possibly could,” he added.

The NCVO has said it will remain vigilant to ensure that the government’s commitment is actually honoured. Chief executive Stuart Etherington said: “We welcome the culture secretary’s pledge that the voluntary and community sector will not be adversely affected and now need firm details outlining how the government will ensure that charities and community groups do not suffer.”

Source: Charity Times News Alert 21st March 2007

Councils holding back third sector, LGA warns

The third sector is being held back by a lack of imagination in the public sector, the deputy chair of the Local Government Association has warned.

Councillor Richard Kemp challenged commissioners to be more ambitious in their design of services. “I simply cannot understand how much of public sector procurement is still silo based and predicated on an outdated belief that the two choices available to us are in-house or privatised,” he said.

Kemp said the benefits of getting the third sector involved are manifest; the sector is community based and brings with it knowledge and expertise of the area in which it works. And because employees are likely to be local, the money earned re-circulates into the community.
“All major public sector providers need to be far more imaginative in the way that they develop and procure services if we are to get the full benefit of third sector activity from social enterprises, charities and the voluntary sector,” he added.

The call came as the Cabinet Office announced that the Improvement and Development Agency is to run its £2 million programme to train council commissioners in the potential of the third sector.

Minister for the third sector Ed Miliband said: “To bring about genuine culture change we must foster greater understanding, particularly at a local level, of the benefits third sector organisations can bring in delivering services that change people’s lives for the better.”

Meanwhile, Birmingham and Croydon Councils were named by the IDeA and the Communities and Local Government Department as Beacon councils for increasing voluntary and community sector service delivery.

Source: Charity Times News Alert 21st March 2007

Charity chairs need more training

Only a small proportion of chairs receive an induction when joining a charity and most new chairs must learn on the job, according to a study from the Governance Hub.

The research Support and Resource Needs of Trustees and Chairs in Voluntary and Community Organisations also found that despite most chairs already having managerial experience in the private, public or voluntary sector, 25% think they are not offered enough opportunities to learn about their role. In addition, 61% of chairs said they wanted structured learning and less formal opportunities through networks and exchanges with peers, as well as increased access to information, particularly online.

Jolanta Lasota, head of the Governance Hub, said: “Chairs have an important role in the effective governance of voluntary and community organisations. It is therefore imperative that they are equipped well enough to lead their organisation, and work with their board, with competence, confidence and passion.”

To view the full report, visit

Monday, March 19, 2007

BBC Outreach

It can sometimes be quite difficult to track down information about forthcoming BBC Campaigns and schemes, and so you may be interested to hear of the launch of Connect and Create, the BBC's new staff volunteering scheme.

The BBC CSR and partnerships department have made a big effort to open up their channels of communication. BBC Outreach, as its now called, has launched a new website and a newsletter about BBC seasons and CSR work. The first one tells of a seaon on Climate Change in April and BBC School Report News Day on 22nd March. Anyone can subscribe to this newsletter by going on the website.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Working with volunteers - the way ahead: more photos

Further proof that 13th March 2007 at Highgate House was a hard-working day for the 60+ charity managers who attended to update their skills and knowledge about volunteer management issues as well as try out some teambuilding activities. With thanks again to The Sundial Group for sponsoring the event.

Working with Volunteers - the way ahead event 13th March 2007

Pictures from the event at Highgate House near Northampton this week co-hosted by, Northampton Volunteering Centre and The Sundial Group, show teambuilding activities, tree climbing, arm waving, and tea drinking... in fact all the essential skills needed to become a successful charity manager!

We'll post some pictures from the indoor workshops when we were working really hard (honest) if we can find them (if indeed they exist!)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Fundraising Standards Board

After months of delay, the Fundraising Standards Board finally went public on 12 February 2007.

The FSB was originally set for public launch in October of 2006, but a slower than expected take up of the scheme by charities meant the launch had been repeatedly postponed. The scheme now has some 250 organisations signed up to it, and through a major national advertising campaign members of the public will be encouraged to look for its signature 'tick' mark.

Commenting at the launch, FSB chief executive Jon Scourse said: “Today’s launch represents an important commitment by charities to ensure that the public can continue to give with confidence to a sector that last year raised £8.9 billion for its good work.”

The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association’s (PFRA) chief executive Mick Aldridge added: “Over the last six years the PFRA has proved that self-regulation of face-to-face fundraising works. My hope for the Fundraising Standards Board is that it will see every form of fundraising achieving the same high standards and that the public can feel confident that whichever way the choose to support a charity displaying the ‘tick’ logo, it is accountable to a higher authority if it fails to meet the obligations of the ‘fundraising promise’”.

Etherington tells sector to secure its own future

The chief executive of NCVO has told the third sector it must secure its own future, while calling on the government to put the political structures in place to safeguard its place in civil society.
Addressing delegates at the NCVO annual conference, Stuart Etherington said the third sector needed both its own cabinet-level minister, a dedicated department in Whitehall and a select committee offering insight and scrutiny, if the sector was to remain a strong force in policy development.

Now in what he called a “post-Deakin” society, Etherington said charities must fight hard to weather the coming economic and political storms.

“We are highly respected by policy makers and have made a strong impact,” he said. “We are consulted widely by all political parties – they recognise the real difference that we make. As we move from the achievements of the last 10 years into a period of political manoeuvring and economic pressure, I believe our future prospects are not necessarily as certain as they may at first seem.”

Etherington told delegates that they must not let the third sector now be “cast aside at the whim of government”.

“Now more than ever we need to stand up and be counted,” he said. “We are not an additional extra. With a change in Prime Minister we can take nothing for granted, especially when there is not comfort to be gained from the difficult times ahead.”

Etherington set out a list of priorities for Gordon Brown’s anticipated first 100 days as Prime Minister, including ensuring that effective regulation delivers genuine public benefit, and the setting up of a third sector skills council to improve training for employment in the charity world. “The sector is now a very significant employer,” he said. “This growth has led to the professionalisation of the sector and yet we don’t have a dedicated skills council.”

The chief executive told NCVO members that they could not allow their sector to be forgotten, and that together they could build a strong and stable future under any government.
“A world without our dedication is unthinkable,” he concluded. “Let us be clear about what we want to achieve and let nobody steer us off course.”

Charity Times Newsalert 21st February 2007

Charities delivering public services admit mission drift

In management training courses, we have been warning of three things for almost a year: the danger of mission drift for those organisations involved in public service delivery; the fact that in our experience, many organisations do not fully understand their costs, let alone the issues of achieving full cost recovery; and the growing influence of the big charities who director, Tony Gibbs, described as the emerging 4th Sector in his book 'How to make it as a charity manager' over five years ago.

These issues are now very much to the forefront and are becoming hot topics within the sector -

Almost half of charities delivering public services have admitted they are at risk of mission drift, new research conducted by the Charity Commission has found.

Only half of service deliverers responding to the regulator said they could be sure their activities are determined entirely by the charity’s mission rather than by funding priorities.

The report, deemed a “wake up call” for the sector by Commission chair Dame Suzi Leather, also found that only 26 per cent of charities carrying out service delivery actually feel free to make decisions without pressure to conform to their funders’ wishes.

Only 12 per cent of public service deliverers are achieving full cost recovery all of the time, and more than two thirds of funding agreements are for just one year.

The research also found that the majority of larger charities had entered into service delivery. More than 60 per cent of charities with an income above £500,000 deliver public services.

However, just 14 per cent of those not yet delivering public services are actively considering doing so in the next year.

Speaking at the NCVO annual conference, Dame Suzi warned that the sector’s reputation was at risk if mission drift occurred as a result of delivering public services.

“Reputation is at best a fragile thing and must be protected,” she said. “Charities have a distinctiveness they must not lose. We must not see a fourth sector emerge – charities delivering public services which are charities in name only.”

“It’s trustees who face the consequences if mission drift becomes a breach of trust. For their own sake, as well as the sake of their charity, I would urge them to view independence as absolute, non-negotiable and sacrosanct,” she added.

Dame Suzi also lamented the “creeping Tesco-isation” of the largest third sector organisations, saying it was the small and middle income charities that were facing the squeeze in public service delivery. More and more smaller charities would be forced to set up consortia to win valuable contracts in the face of the competition, she said.

“With 88 per cent of charities failing to receive full cost recovery for service delivery, can we really sustain the belief that this can be in the best interests of charities, beneficiaries, or the sector as a whole?” she asked delegates.

Addressing a press conference following Dame Suzi’s speech, Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said the fact that only a quarter of charities felt they still had freedom of action was “a complete disaster”.“I would rather see voluntary sector organisations close then lose the reason that they exist in pursuit of funding which takes away their independence,” Etherington said, telling charities it was up to them to decide on what terms they would accept a contract.
Ben Wittenberg, director of policy and research at the Directory of Social Change, said the Charity Commission report backed up what the organisation had been telling the sector for some time.

“This is yet more evidence that the independence of VCOs is placed at risk by restrictive and poorly delivered funding arrangements, but more than that, that a larger threat to the independence of the VCS is emerging,” he said.

But Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, warned against unnecessary alarmism about the sector’s independence. “It is unrealistic to expect charities to exist in a vacuum, and hardly surprising that funders and donors try to influence what they deliver. What matters is how the charities respond,” he said. “Charities need robust leadership and governance. The best third sector organisations remain true to their founding principles, while evolving to tackle changing social problems.”

NCH chief executive Claire Tickell also dismissed concerns that the sector’s independence was at stake. “Receiving local or state government funding does not mean our independence is compromised. We know the solution to the needs of children, young people and families and it is our responsibility to share them,” she said.

Charity Times Newsalert 21st February 2007

New research to identify social enterprise governance issues

With increasing government attention being placed on social enterprise, the Governance Hub and the Social Enterprise Coalition have commissioned research into the governance challenges facing the sector.

The research, to be carried out by the Open University Business School, is due to be published in Summer 2007 and will examine a range of issues, including the resources and services currently being used by social enterprises and existing gaps in support.

The Governance Hub said that while there are at least 55,000 UK-based social enterprises with a combined turnover of £27bn per year, there is not a robust evidence base concerning the governance issues which affect it.

Chief executive of the Social Enterprise Coalition, Jonathan Bland, said: “Good governance is extremely important for social enterprise and as the sector goes from strength to strength this will help us ensure that we know exactly where our specific strengths and challenges lie.”

For the most recent Charity Times feature looking at social enterprise in detail, visit:

Charity Times Newsalert 22nd February 2007

Collaboration is fine, but sector has little interest in mergers

Increasing numbers of charities believe they face competition in their particular ‘markets’ and are happy to work collaboratively with other charities, though merger is not on the cards for most.

This is according to accountancy firm Baker Tilly, which carried out surveys among charities attending a series of seminars in November and December last year. Of those charities questions, 52% believed they faced competition and 45% collaborated with other charities regularly. However, 85% said they had not merged with another charity in the past five years nor were considering a merger within the next five.

Nick Sladden, a partner at Baker Tilly, said: “Charities are clearly facing the threat of competition in their marketplace, either purely for fundraising or across all their services. Whilst charities are increasingly looking at collaborative working to ensure effectiveness, it would seem that they are loath to look at the potential benefits of mergers.”

This is despite the Charity Commission’s call (and subsequent publication of guidance) last June for charities to review how they could deliver a better service for their users, which included considering merger as an option. The Commission warned charities that with increasing pressure to deliver and limited resources available to the sector, collaboration, and potentially merger, between charities could improve service provision.

From Charity Times Newsalert 143