Tuesday, 19 May 2015
Good to see in the Times today a report from Rosie Bennett making clear that Olive Cooke's granddaughter wants to set the record straight; she is not blaming charities for driving her grandmother to suicide. This rather puts some of the nasty and lurid press stories into perspective - and I recommend the article to some of those MPs who have decided that they need to "sort out" charity fundraising.
I also want to congratulate Alistair McClean, who runs the fundraising standards board on his deft and sensible handling of the issue. He showed great skill in making the case for charity fundraising but recognising the broader issues it raises for us as a sector. As I said, it's something CEOs in fundraising charities will want to review and keep an eye on - and I'm glad Alistair is reviewing this in the standards board. A healthy complaints process is good for those who have a problem but also for charities generally.
It's interesting that of late the media - or at least parts of it are much more willing to have a go at charities than before. Probably part of the general questioning of those in perceived positions of power or influence. As a sector we should be careful in our response. The answer is not to fall overboard on "transparency". Yes, we need to be better at demonstrating impact and explaining what we do but that does not mean we reveal all, for example the odd suggestion that we might publish details of party affiliations.
And yesterday was another health day - for me and indeed the PM and Head of NHS England. I had lunch with ACEVO member Dr Crystal Oldman, who runs the Queens Nursing Institute; a fascinating body set up in 1859 by 2 great Victorians, Liverpool philanthropist William Rathbone and Florence Nightingale. The founding mission was to promote district nursing. William Rathbone had seen the importance of having a nurse to care for his wife at home during her final illness. After his wife's death he employed the nurse who had helped his wife to support other people who could not afford nursing care at home. So started this small third sector body which grew into a national organisation setting standards and training nurses. Now such training is provided through universities and other educational institutions but the QNI remains a force in advocacy, campaigns and policy development.
Another example of the innovative and pioneering work done by the third sector. There is no doubt that nursing support at home needs strengthening. Indeed these days there is so much more that can be provided in the home that the NHS is curiously unsupportive of. Try getting chemo sorted at home! It can be done but hospitals like you to go to them!
Its was one of the underlying messages of David Cameron's excellent speech on a 7 day a week health service yesterday; we need to look more at how we support community health and care services and how we promote well being and prevent bad health. Simon Stevens rightly focused on the challenge of diabetes. It already takes 10% of the entire budget. It is clear that there is a growing problem of obesity amongst young people. Many kids now coming out of primary school are overweight. I think Simon Stevens is right- we will need to tackle this in many ways including legislation and regulations on sugar and salt content, supermarket labelling etc. This needs a robust response and yet still our NHS is focused on providing a sickness service and downplays the role of prevention and community support.
Monday, 18 May 2015
The tragic story of Olivia Cooke has reopened the debate on charity fundraising. Many members of our sector have been talking about their own fundraising practice in response.
What we should do now is not apportion blame, but recognise this as the moment to take a hard look at our work, and particularly our fundraising.
Libby Purves made a good point in her Times column today: "the nation's decent and reasonable rage at the case of Olive Cooke should be a shot across the bows of all fundraisers". Of course, charities need to raise funds. But the way we do this must be in line with our mission and purpose to do good.
ACEVO made this case in our recent report Good with Money. We argued that Chief Executives should be conscious of their organisation’s investment policy, and this policy should be embedded in the charity’s identity. Charities – and their CEOs – should be proactively transparent about these policies.
We can extend that approach to fundraising. We as CEOs need to be clear that where we have fundraising activities they are done to the highest standards.
With significant further cuts in public spending to come and a real strain on charity resources against rising demand charities do need to rely increasingly on the generosity of the public. We need to be sure that we do not damage our reputations through fundraising. And that any fundraising organisations who work on our behalf also adhere to best practice.
I was chatting to the manager of my favourite Helen and Douglas Hospice shop in Chipping Norton on Saturday and we were discussing this dilemma. Balancing the need to raise funds to support brilliant work but not hassling people to the point where they are turned off by the pressure of the fundraising effort.
Fundraising is important. Indeed it’s vital to the work we do: we need our fundraising community. But we need to make sure we’re doing it well – with the right purpose and methods. We need strong leadership in this area.
Tuesday, 12 May 2015
So it's started already. Hardly the ink dry on the election result and some MPs already banging on about "Europe". If this goes on like this, I will be one of those wanting an early referendum to get it over with. Whilst this is an important issue there will be many more key priorities for our sector, not least the attempt to abolish human rights legislation, attack charity campaigning, cuts to welfare and changes to the public sector. Some maybe positive, but not all.
As it happens I am at a Euclid conference looking at "Strategic Leadership in turbulent times" in Europe. Euclid was set up in 2007 as a network of European third sector leaders to provide mutual support and learning, and act as a catalyst for social change across Europe. We meet in the great Catalonian city of Barcelona. Parallels with the Scottish question as there is a strong Catalan independence movement but with a Spanish government determined not to grant autonomy or even a referendum. One of my colleagues here is Pat Armstrong of ACOSVO, our Scottish sister organisation and we have been chatting! We will want to form a good alliance with the SNP on sector matters that come before Parliament. Not something we had thought we would be doing!
But interestingly, although the demand for reform is often couched in ultra English nationalist terms we do see across Europe a desire for less centralised, bureaucratic European institutions and more localism and decentralisation. The cause that the government is espousing is one that many third sector organisations will recognise. Reforms that devolve power to communities and away from Brussels are ones the third sector should support. I'm pleased to see Greg Clark at DCLG as he has a strong and firm belief in localism but with a localism that strengthens communities and the third sector. Not just councils. This idea needs to be mirrored in a wider European approach.
Being in Barcelona, though but for a short time, is a delight. Our Euclid contingent is based at a hotel (modest as you would expect) near to the wonderful Gaudi Basilica of the Sacred Family. I went to Mass there this morning in the small crypt, which also contains the Gaudi tomb. It's a wonderful and exuberant reinterpretation of Gothic. When I was last here some 20 years ago the roof was still not on. Now it is and indeed it now costs you 15 euros to see inside, where I remember walking around a building site for free! Mind you ,they are still working on it! As you can see.
Friday, 8 May 2015
What a night. It was strange to be watching the results rolling in, sitting in David Cameron's constituency. Indeed I even saw his car – and the accompanying helicopter – pass as he went from his house up the road to the count in Witney.
To Cameron’s credit, he was the only party leader who spoke about volunteering and the third sector during the campaign. He made a radical proposal on volunteering rights in new legislation, which we strongly supported. His support for charities and social enterprise – and specially his emphasis on volutneering – will have been noted all over the country. I look forward to seeing it take shape in government.
Andrew Marr made a perceptive remark about Labour’s stance on the voluntary and community sector, when he said the party need to fundamentally rethink their approach, to think less of public sector workers and more about the role of charities and the community. I was shocked that Ed Miliband, who was our first third sector minister, made no comment in this election about charities and social enterprise or our role in society. Labour needs a radical rethink of its stance on the third sector. They were silly to ignore civil society and its role in building stronger communities. Let's hope the Labour leadership contenders will put this right.
So, while these are early days, I am pleased by David Cameron's pledge, made in his speech in Downing Street, to build One Nation. This must not be only about Scottish devolution but also about bridging the gulf between the haves and have-nots, accelerating the public service reform agenda to give the poorest in our society real choice and care and supporting our world-leading third sector. One Nation means working with charities, campaign groups and social enterprises that bring people together, listening to them and supporting their leaders to make change happen. Our voluntary and community organisations must be unmuzzled and unleashed, for the good of our country.
Wednesday, 22 April 2015
This election campaign may be boring at times, and too policy-light, but it’s risky to ignore its importance for our country’s future.
I read two excellent blogs this week on the challenge of getting the third sector heard.
Rosamund McCarthy of BWB, writing for Civil Society, made a comprehensive argument for why third sector organisations cannot be ignored in the pre-election debate, for the sake of good, informed politics and for the sake of improving political representation.
And then Andrew Purkis, former CEO, Charity Commissioner and ACEVO member, continued his excellent new blog with some reflections on political activity and the third sector.
The voice of the voluntary sector has been distinctly muted in this election campaign. The parties get their message across, dutifully amplified by the media, while business figures are regularly asked for their opinions. But charities are largely silent and excluded, all the while patiently awaiting a poll result that will hugely affect their beneficiaries.
Austerity will continue to have a devastating effect on the most vulnerable in society. Disabled people are paying nine times more towards reducing the deficit than the average citizen. The potential repeal of the Human Rights Act by the Conservative Party will affect asylum seekers most of all. The promised £12bn cuts to the welfare budget will transform the lives of thousands of people whom charities exist to serve. For legions of their beneficiaries, nothing is more important than where these cuts will fall. At their heart, charities are about speaking for the powerless, disaffected and vulnerable yet during this election campaign their views are largely silent.
Quite right. Apart from the Greens and the SNP, the major UK parties all promise further spending cuts and the odd tax rise here and there - which affect the poorest and the richest in turn. Their manifestos may well increase demand for the third sector while, perhaps, putting our sources of government funding in further doubt. Yet, despite the prospects for the future, the third sector is too often unable to speak out and give its views.
Business leaders, of course, have been as loud as ever. Rosamund points to a letter from 200 business CEOs in the Telegraph this month, endorsing the Conservative plans for the country:
These corporate chief executives were writing in a personal capacity but the Telegraph and the rest of the media made no secret that they represented companies employing more than half a million people. It’s questionable how relevant that is. Being an employee, customer, or supplier of one of these companies doesn’t remotely signify you endorse the political stance of its chief executive.
Charities speak for millions of beneficiaries, staff, trustees and members. Our expertise on the front line and in policy-making gives us formidable knowledge which informs government policy and public debate. We cannot afford not to continue the clamour for a Free Society, as ACEVO set out in our 2015 Manifesto and as we’ve been pushing for ever since.
Andrew Purkis has worked in detail through the history of charity campaigning regulation in his blog. He is rightly concerned about the Charity Commission’s impending review of CC9, and about the way their recent decisions on cases like the Oxfam ‘Perfect Storm’ campaign have worsened the ‘chilling effect’ we have faced for two years now.
In his words:
… despite a short term pre-election period of relative calm on this front, we find ourselves headed backwards towards the corrosive vagueness and instability of the 1980s. To have relatively clear guidance (CC9) but then confuse and undermine it through imprecise and negative public utterances and supplementary guidance, is poor regulation. This is good neither for the sector not for the reputation of the Charity Commission. The British public, who owe so much to the non-party political activity of charities, including churches, from the Abolition of the Slave Trade onwards, deserve a lot better.
It’s in the belief that third sector regulation can be better that we started our Low Commission on Third Sector Regulation. It’s been taking evidence far and wide, from ACEVO members, regulators and other experts. Its results are out soon after the election. Keep an eye on our policy blog www.lobbyingacts.com for updates, and I’ll keep you posted too.
Thursday, 16 April 2015
It’s been striking, in recent years, how often religious groups have led the response to the hardships of austerity. Even in the days of declining church attendance in Britain, groups like the Trussell Trust have galvanised society and led the third sector’s efforts to prevent and alleviate the worst effects of financial crisis.
So how appropriate it is to see my old friend the Rt Rev Dr Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, writing in today’s Times about the new campaign he launches this evening with Tearfund.
Tearfund is a Christian charity - in their words, “Christians passionate about ending poverty”. The Bishop writes:
“Many of today’s global challenges have been brewing for many years and we should have seen them coming. Yet we have made the mistake of concentrating only on short-term issues.
We can reasonably predict that the floods, droughts and storms already ravaging countries and wiping out families will only get worse. For many of the world’s poorest people, those threats are already a daily reality.
We must respond to natural resource constraints by living within our fair share of the world’s environmental limits. We must meet poverty with radical generosity and use our power as citizens and consumers to demand that all people are treated with dignity, wherever they are.
Often, only crises produce real change. But actions taken at moments of crisis depend on the ideas to hand.
We need bigger ideas: a passionate concern for the common good and a fuller life for everyone, whoever they are and wherever they live — both now and in future generations.”
Tonight the Bishop will launch a campaign for a ‘restorative economy’ - ‘based on a movement of people willing to change their own lives so that everyone can share in an equitable global prosperity’.
The campaign is based around the work of ‘ordinary heroes’, people who change their own lives in ‘small but significant’ ways like flying less or consuming fairtrade products. It draws on the Biblical concept of Jubilee - to work to build a rhythm of productivity, rest and community to counter debt and exploitation.
‘Ordinary heroes’ are encouraged to use their own power and to set an example to the community around them. Their actions will combine lay the building blocks for a wider movement, that changes how we think about wealth, prosperity and consumption.
In times of deep pessimism about the role of religion in society, and when we’re getting almost immune to concerns about religious extremism and its links to terrorists, this sort of campaign is worth everyone’s support. Do read more about it, and join up, here!
Wednesday, 8 April 2015
Did you spot the irony of that full page advert from business leaders supporting the Tory party to win the election?
I wonder whether the Lobbying Act prohibitions against 'non-party organisations and individuals' trying to influence public votes during the election period shouldn't also apply to those 100 company CEOs who released their overtly partisan letter in the Telegraph?
I suspect many of them have spent far more than the registration threshold on supporting party election campaigning too? I wonder how much tobacco companies are spending in fighting against plain packaging and who they are supporting? What would have happened if charity leaders had done the same? This is yet another instance of the outrage of the Lobbying act and how it doesn't affect Lobbying but does gag charities. It has had an insidious effect on charity campaigning. There is no doubt that the act has quietening our voice. This Act has to be repealed and ACEVO will continue its campaign for this after the election.
Hopefully you all had a great Easter. I was down in Kent with family celebrating the 50th anniversary of the consecration of St Matthews, Wigmore. I was one of the first to be confirmed in the new church so a double celebration for me. Some photos from the event. Myself with my mother and father and two sisters Lucy and Sara.
The Bishop of Rochester gave the sermon and I had a long chat with him afterwards about ACEVO and our work, which he had heard a lot about. He was interested in the whole issue of rehabilitation because he holds the brief for prisons amongst the Bishops. We will follow up that conversation.
|The Bishop of Rochester|