The political conference season begins!

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.

Fiona and Steve sportswear

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:

Lib Dems

Liberal Democrat

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.

Political party conferences: sign-up to our Thunderclap!

The political party conference season is almost upon us, and though we can tell you that the Back Britain’s Charities campaign will be present, our offThunderclapering will be staying under wraps for now…

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 -

“David Cameron - use your #cpc2013 speech to get Government, business and the public #backingcharity in tough times”

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.

New social value ambassador, Chris White MP, Backs Britain’s Charities

Chris White MP writes for us…

Supporting Britain’s charities has never been more important. A survey by the Charities Aid Foundation last year found that one in six charities were concerned about closing over the next twelve months and a quarter said that they were having to cut front-line services. This is at a time when even greater demands are being placed on charities across the country.

Chris WhiteOur charities play an important role in our communities, providing services and support to some of the most vulnerable people, often hidden from view. Most of our charities are small organisations which do not have the chance to run big advertising campaigns or lobby for more funding – but this doesn’t make their work any less important.

However if we want to keep our charities going, then all of us need to do our bit to help.

As individuals we need to continue to support charities as much as we can. Although these are difficult times, small changes like providing regular donations, rather than irregular lump sums, can make the finances of charities far healthier and help to plan for the future.

Local authorities need to ensure that they are proportionate in the way that they treat charities. Councils have to make difficult choices, but charities should not suffer the brunt of reductions because they are voices that can be easily ignored. In the long term, the loss of charities will damage our communities and opening up service contracts and protecting grants in the short term, will have a positive benefit in the long term – improving outcomes and saving public money.

The Government also needs to make changes to help charities and encourage donations. Payroll Giving, which aims to make giving money to charity easier for people, is used by just 3% of the public. We need to ensure that people are aware of Payroll Giving and we need to encourage employers to promote this form of giving to their employees and make taking up this scheme as easy as possible.

The Government should also consider further changes to Gift Aid to ensure that charities get maximum benefit from this scheme. The Small Charities Donations Scheme is a good start and should unlock millions of pounds for local charities, but increasing public awareness of Gift Aid and boosting giving through Direct Debit and social media could unlock another £735 million for charities.

A Gift Aid system which is fit for the 21st Century and based online could revolutionise giving and provide extra funding at a time when charities need it most and needs to be a higher priority.

The Back Britain’s Charities campaign is doing vital work in raising the profile of charities in Parliament and in Government and the more support the campaign can generate, the more impact it will have. Over the year ahead I hope that we can, through Back Britain’s Charities, continue to raise the profile of our charities, and ensure that these important local organisations are able to survive and thrive.

Celebration Day marks the end of a great week!

This Saturday saw the grand finale of a very successful Small Charity Week, with charities from near and far gathering in Russell Square, Central London for “Celebration Day”.


CAF media, policy & campaigns staff pose with our paperchain of sign-ups from Celebration Day!

A field of “impact statements” from hundreds of small charities were the focus of a day of live entertainment, fairground games and charity stalls. These statements served to underline the real value these organisations bring to their beneficiaries in a multitude of different ways.


Field of Small Charity Impact Statements!

We wanted to take the Back Britain’s Charities campaign along to help celebrate the work of small charities and to talk to more people about the campaign. And we’re delighted to say that a great number of the people we spoke to were happy to sign-up to support!

We wrote the name of each person to sign-up on our chain of paper ‘charity people’ – a little metaphor for people standing side-by-side with charities during these tough times (see pic above!).  

As part of the activity for Celebration Day events were also taking place all around the country, and in addition, the charity impact statements (including the Back Britain’s Charities logo!) were being displayed on BBC Big Screens across the UK.

Though the weather wavered between sunny and stormy, the atmosphere and attitude of positivity rounded off this excellent week perfectly. Our hearty congratulations to the FSI who made such an event possible!

Let’s hope the charities and individuals we met on Saturday are willing to throw their support behind Back Britain’s Charities to maintain the momentum behind the important message that small charities can do big things in our society!

Small Charity Week 2013 in full flow!

CAF Campaigns Manager, Fiona McEvoy, gives her perceptions of the week so far…

Well, Small Charity Week has been in full-swing since Monday, and on Tuesday 18th June – the Big Advice Day –  my fellow Campaigns Manager, Steve Clapperton, and I had the fantastic opportunity to speak with a number of different charities about their communications plans and aspirations.

The FSI-organised event took place at the Royal Horticultural Halls in Westminster, and we were tBig Advice Dayhere to advise scores of small charity representatives from across the country on campaigns, PR and politics.

And it was nothing short of a privilege to learn a little more about the fantastic – and incredibly valuable –  work small charities are undertaking in every part of the UK and beyond.

For obvious reasons I can’t go into details about the specific charities we advised, but it is fair to say they were incredibly diverse in their objectives and structures, and really showed the impressive reach of small charities, not only within our communities but nationally and internationally. It was somewhat inspiring to engage with individuals truly motivated by need and mission, many of whom played a multitude of roles within their organisations in a “head-chef and post-washer” type set-up.Steve big advice day

When we left the event after a full and intense day of talking and advice, not only did we feel a sense of satisfaction from being able to help a number of charities in some small way, but we also felt more assured of the validity and importance of the Back Britain’s Charities campaign. The campaign aims to throw a spotlight onto the vital work the voluntary sector, particularly those who are suffering due to the financial impact caused by a drop in donations and cuts to funding – i.e. smaller charities with less robust finances. This is clearly something that is worthwhile, given the causes being championed by the organisations we met with.

On Saturday 22nd June this Small Charity Week culminates in “Celebration Day” in Russell Square in Central London, and the public will gather with charities to celebrate the work and value of small charities. Though CAF is hardly a small charity, we’ll be there with the Back Britain’s Charities campaign to openly applaud the work of some of the countries most interesting and dynamic organisations, and also to acknowledge the hard work of the FSI who conceived and organised this brilliant week of events.

Statement from The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP

The Secretary of State responsible for the Department for Communities & Local Government, The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, issued the following statement today ahead of our Back Britain’s Charities event in Parliament which took part this afternoon.

Eric PicklesUnfortunately, Mr Pickles wasn’t able to attend the event in person but made the following remarks:

“Councils have to prioritise how they spend taxpayers money, but they must resist any temptation to pull up the drawbridge on the voluntary sector by passing on disproportionate savings.  We have set out clear expectations for councils. The best councils are those that work with their local voluntary and community partners in the interests of local people whilst managing to balance the books.

New Community Rights gives civic and voluntary groups the power to take over and protect community resources like leisure centres, village halls and libraries. This is all about moving from a situation from one of survival to one where charities can thrive”.

A full report on the successful event - “Cuts in the Community: Can councils justify disproportionate reductions in charity funding?” - will be going up shortly on the Back Britain’s Charities blog!

‘Counting the Cuts’ report shows dim prospects for Britain’s charities

Yesterday, NCVO released their updated ‘Counting the Cuts’ report, which examines government funding cuts to the voluntary sector, and predicts a potential drop in funding of 15% by 2017/8, which translates to £1.7bn.

This steep decline however, is one of the ‘best case scenarios’ - i.e. if cuts are proportionate to over all budgetary cuts at local authorities. Should cuts be disproportionate - as they already are at 50% of councils responding to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request - the sector could lose as much as £2.1bn from government.

NCVO’s study uses OBR economic forecasts, charity accounts data and data obtained directly from local authorities as part of a Freedom of Information (FoI) campaign. The analysis and estimates focus on three possible scenarios – proportionate cuts to charity funding, disproportionate cuts, and a ‘contract winning scenario’.

The following diagram may make grim reading for many of our Back Britain’s Charities supporters:

Cuts chart

The NCVO say that they compile this data because government fails to provide reliable figures on charity/voluntary sector expenditure…

In order to debate this very issue, the Back Britain’s Charities campaign are holding an event in Parliament on the 10th June.

The event, entitled “Cuts in the Community: Can councils justify disproportionate reductions in charity funding?”, will be asking the following questions amongst many others:

  • Are the councils that are cutting charity funding merely playing politics or have austerity measures left them with little choice?
  • Do charities need to innovate in order to truly earn the funding they get?
  • Is Government doing enough to ensure small and medium-sized charities aren’t muscled out? 
  • Are charities always in a better position to meet the needs of their local communities?

The format will be of a panel event with representatives from local government, central government and charity, followed by a lively 45minute Q&A session.

Places are now extremely limited due to the overwhelming popularity of the topic, but if you would like to enquire regarding the last few places or be added to the cancellations list, please just email

It is destined to be a great event and we’ll be sure to document it in full on the blog next month!



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