We’ve now returned home from Liberal Democrat party conference 2013 after spending a few days in Glasgow with one half of the Coalition partners. Whilst there we managed to speak with a number of senior Lib Dem politicians about our people power report, and explain to them why it is so important that we get more people involved with charitable giving.
Our stand game went down a storm with both MPs and activists, with many chancing their arm more than once to see if they could set the top time on our people power game. After the closing of conference, the winner of our game was Michael Wallace, who was presented with a CAF charity cheque worth £50 to give to a charity of his choice.
Our leaderboard was a constant source of interest, and the competition between Lib Dem MPs was extremely fierce! The quick MP was Paul Burstow, who set a very respectable time of 8.68 seconds – let’s see how that compares to the quickest that the Labour and Conservative parties have to offer.
We were also joined on our stand by the likes of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander MP, who were both interested in the findings of our report, recognising the value that charities bring to society and their important role in helping people who need help the most.
Our political visitors weren’t limited to those representing the House of Commons either, with politicians from the Welsh Assembly, European Parliament and House of Lords also coming along to find our more about our report, as well as councillors from across the country.
Our fringe event was also the source of much interest, with the likes of Esther Rantzen dropping in to hear what our panel had to say about getting more people involved with charitable giving. You can read more about it here.
It’s great that our report was able to spark so much debate, and our interactive conference game certainly got people to think about the power they’re able to generate. We’re looking forward to moving the show onto Brighton and challenging the best that Labour politicians and activists to prove their people power!
Saturday marked the start of the political party conference season, and this year the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) is taking the Back Britain’s Charities message on tour to Glasgow, Brighton and Manchester, in order to raise awareness of the importance of supporting charities during these tough times.
Our first stop is Glasgow, where we arrived on Friday in all our sporting glory to speak to Liberal Democrat delegates and politicians about the importance of ‘people power’ in driving the charity and voluntary sector.
To represent the hard work volunteers and donors to put in to power charities throughout the country, we’re asking willing competitors to pedal their heart out to light up our Union Jack. Whoever lights the flag in the quickest time over our five days here in Glasgow will win a charity cheque to donate to the good cause of their choice.
Already our stand is attracting attention, but beyond the eye catching stand and jovial costumes, we also will be engaging with political players about the importance of broadening out the ‘Civic Core’ – the small pool of people who are responsible for the large majority of charitable work and donations as identified in our new report. We’ll hopefully be able to delve even deeper into this issue at our political fringe events where we’ll be gathering charity representatives and politicians to discuss how this can be done. Here’s all the info on the one in Glasgow tomorrow:
Building people power for good causes: how do we get millions backing Britain’s charities?
When: Tuesday 17th September, 1815-1930
Where: Barra Room, Crowne Plaza, Glasgow (inside secure zone)
Speakers: Stephen Gilbert, MP for St Austell & Newquay, Mike Thornton, MP for Eastleigh, Baroness Jolly, Dr John Low, CEO, Charities Aid Foundation, Toby Helm, Political Editor of The Observer (Chair)
If you’re at the conferences this year, do come along and say hello. If not, you can help us in our work by signing up to our Thunderclap here and asking the PM to do what he can to encourage a charitable society for the good of us all! Please do encourage anyone else you know who cares about charity to do the same.
In the run-up, however, there is a way that YOU can get involved if you or your organisation have a Twitter account. We’ve started a Thunderclap to call on David Cameron to help charities during tough times, just ahead of his big keynote speech on the last day of Conservative Party Conference.
Our Thunderclap message, entitled – “SOS!: Charities call on PM” reads as follows -
If you sign-up to our Thunderclap, you will automatically tweet or post out our message simultaneously with all other sign-ups and this will hopefully resonate further on Twitter and Facebook, attracting others to our campaign and our cause.
If you would like to sign-up, you can do so here, and we’d love it if you’d encourage others to do the same.
This morning an article in Third Sector has chosen to examine the extent to which charities should aim to improve their transparency. The majority of those consulted suggested that most charities need to get better at communicating both their costs and achievements to donors and potential donors in order to improve their lot in the long run.
Both ‘impact’ and ‘transparency’ are words you hear a lot in the sector, generally woven into an intense dialogue about things that need to be demonstrated, or indeed purposely not demonstrated, in order to prove credibility and/or attract donations.
The Back Britain’s Charities campaign has similarly spoken about the need for value and impact to be evident and tangible, and the importance of charities really ‘banging a drum’ about what they do. Nevertheless, for some charities – and particularly smaller ones that we hear from on a regular basis - most resources acquired must necessarily be diverted straight to the frontline and directly to beneficiaries.
So are debates around transparency a luxury of larger, more well known charities? Well this is complicated by the ambiguity around what we are even talking about when we consider transparency. Within the Third Sector article, Joe Saxton of npfSynergy suggests there could be some dispute:
”When people are talking about transparency they are talking about different things. Some people are talking about impact. Other people are talking about finance and figures. It can be in the way you present a set of figures. We probably do need some agreement about what it means to be transparent.” (Third Sector)
When we launched Back Britain’s Charities we felt that it was important to include an ‘ask’ to charities, to sit alongside our asks to the public, government and business. We wanted our stakeholders in business, government and the public to be clear that charities were also taking on responsibility for their own future, and that the campaign wasn’t under the illusion that all voluntary sector organisations work in a super efficient way, or that all fundraising was carried out flawlessly. Equally, it was important the campaign wasn’t solely about other stakeholders from other sectors being called upon to wade in and bail charities out.
A key part of that ‘ask’ reads as follows:
“It’s clearly the responsibility of all charities to ensure that the donations people give are used to achieve the greatest impact possible. Charities should always use resources as effectively and efficiently as possible”.
In real testimony sent to us through the sign-up section of this website we have, since our launch, received an avalanche of anecdotal tales, each telling what good has been done with what little money. Stories of how shoestring economics have been deployed and still achieved results for beneficiaries, making an important difference. What is evident is that some small local charities have few avenues through which they can showcase their ‘value’ or ‘impact’, nor do the they have the manpower or flexibility to do it – or indeed the financial means to justify diverting money away from their beneficiaries to demonstrate their impact. Increased transparency of expenditure would, and does in many cases, reveal organisations on the brink – or at the very least holding it together with limited resources.
We’ve now come to see talking about value and impact as one of the key functions of the Back Britain’s Charities campaign, stepping in where many charities are unable to voice their successes or concerns.
If you have a story that is worth telling to a wider audience (like the one below!), we invite you to send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can talk about charities like yours, their impact and the consequences of the current financial climate.
I was 10 when I had my first session at Edwards Trust. My father had just passed away after being in critical care for 5 weeks. Being so young I was so confused about how I felt. I was upset. Heartbroken. Angry. Confused. Lonely. The only thought that ran through my head was, why me? Why my father? But I never talked about it and my family were worried about me so they referred me to Edwards Trust.
I spent my first session talking to my counsellor, Sue Dale. She made me feel so safe and comfortable; it was nice to be able to talk about my father without it ending in tears. During our sessions we made a memory jar, a jar filled with different colour salts to represent different memories I had of my father. We spent the rest of our sessions creating a painting of one of the best memories I share with my father, visiting the golden temple together. Sue helped me express my feelings in ways I didn’t think were possible and helped me open up and talk about what was on my mind.
After my experience at Edwards Trust, I find it so much easier to tell people close to me when I’m down or just the need to talk. I also understand my feelings and why I’m feeling them and that it’s ok to feel them. Sue helped me realise that.
I recently took part in the Young Philanthropy Initiative with my school which engages young people in creating social change. I presented the valuable work of Edwards Trust because I wanted to try and help raise funds and say thank you. My team got through to the finals where a YPI judging panel picked my presentation as the best from many other organisations and awarded Edwards Trust £3,000. I never felt so good and I was so pleased to be able to say thank you in the form of a cheque. As a finale to YPI experience we were all invited to London for a YPI party to celebrate our achievements.
Right now I am doing my GCSE’s in English, maths, science, French, religious education and child development and hoping to get good enough grades to go to sixth form. I want to go to university as I am an aspiring journalist and hope to be writing for a fashion magazine in the future.
I want to thank Edwards Trust for everything they have done for me and to thank Sue because without her I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Has your charity made a real difference? To find out how to submit a blog for the Charity Impact Watch section of the website just email email@example.com.
The latest of NAVCA’s quarterly surveys has been published this week, and makes interesting reading for charities and voluntary sector groups. We’ve blogged about the regular NACVA survey before, and it always gives a useful insight into the mood in the sector. This quarter’s survey comes amidst talk of an upturn in the economy, but it appears that growing optimism around the nation’s finances isn’t yet reflected in the charity sector.
NAVCA members are split over what the next three months holds in store for them, but crucially more pessimistic than they were at the same time last year. The survey found that 26% of NAVCA members believe their prospects will improve over the next year, with 27% expecting a worsening of their circumstances. By comparison, the figures from last year were 29% for the former and 19% for the latter.
However the survey also demonstrates that charities and voluntary sector groups are adapting in light of the challenges they face, and that this continued focus in helping ensure that they are able to provide support to local groups. For the first time since the series of surveys was launched give quarters ago, more members are looking to increase their services (33%) than reduce them (30%.)
NAVCA report that to increase their service provision charities are working more closely together, building and developing relationships with local businesses, and increasing online support to make it easier for them to engage with other organisations.
We’re also pleased to see that many NAVCA members reported that there has been an improvement in their relationship with local public bodies. Whilst we’re argued – and continue to argue – that public bodies should not cut funding to charity and voluntary sector groups disproportionately, we know that there are significant pressures on local council budgets and it is good to see that their links to local voluntary groups are strengthening.
As polls report an increase in optimism about the future of the British economy, we’ll be watching with interest to see if that has any direct impact on surveys such as this which provide an overview of the mood in the charitable and voluntary sector. In the meantime, why not get in touch and let us know what the next three months has in store for your organisation? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and share your story!
That’s the key message from an eye-opening survey by the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network which has shown that despite the increase in volunteering that we noted earlier in the week, many charities are extremely worried about the future of their organisation.
The survey of more than 1,000 charity professionals found that charities are bracing themselves for a further increase in demand for their support, but many are worried that they simply will not cope.
Asked about their prospects over the next five years to 2018, 8.5% said that they did not believe they will survive, and a further 18% were unsure about their future. More positively, three-quarters of charities think they will still be going strong mid-way through the next Parliament.
The findings of the survey also included a worrying finding about the relationship between charities and the Government, with 47% of respondents stating that they have no confidence in the Government’s approach to the third sector.
These findings are consistent with research carried out by CAF over the past few months. In December, we reported that one in six charities fears being forced to close over the next year unless there is a significant improvement in the economic climate. We’ve also referenced figures from elsewhere which have shown that charities have seen a 67% increase in demand for their services.
Today’s GDP figures – an initial estimate of 0.6% growth in the second quarter – will help, but as we’ve highlighted elsewhere, the combination of increased demand with spending cuts and a drop in donations means that charities are struggling to meet the challenge of doing more for less.
We know that many charities are implementing innovative programmes to save money and ensure that the donations they receive go as far as they can towards helping beneficiaries. We saw yesterday just how difficult things are more some of best-known charities, with Oxfam reporting a significant drop in their income – and we know that for many smaller charities the picture is bleaker still.
That’s why we’ve been working so hard to target a range of different audiences, and make sure that people, businesses and politicians are all doing their bit to Back Britain’s Charities. We’ll carry on pushing for change, but we need your help. Find out what you can do to help us, and make it that little easier for those 10% of charities that are fearful for their future.