Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Attacking philanthropy?

Up early. How I hate early morning meetings!  This began over a breakfast in the splendid cafe "Churchill's" on Whitehall. An unhealthy bacon sani! And why?

At his request I took  group of senior third sector leaders and philanthropists to meet  with Nick Hurd MP  in the Cabinet Office to discuss how the tax relief cap proposed in last week’s budget will affect charities. 

The group expressed in the strongest terms its concern that the proposed cap will have the unintended consequence of reducing the level of philanthropic donations to charities, community organisations, higher education institutions, arts institutions and other non-profit bodies.

This would counteract the success of the government’s previous initiatives to encourage a culture of philanthropy, and could jeopardise the financial health of parts of the third sector. The group set out a number of examples showing that some donors are already reducing their contributions in the wake of the Budget announcement.

The group made clear its strong view that tax relief on charitable donations should be exempted from the proposed cap. Members of the group will from today be meeting with the Secretaries of State of other relevant departments to call for immediate action on the issue.

I thought the most useful approach was to take just a small group so we could have a good discussion, though very aware many would have wanted to be there to express their concern! The members attending the meeting were:Sir Vernon Ellis (Chairman of the British Council and the English National Opera, and member of the Philanthropy Review); David Bull (CEO, UNICEF UK); CiarĂ¡n Devane (CEO, Macmillan Cancer Support); Eric Thomas (Vice-Chancellor, Bristol University)and Sarah Woolnough (Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Cancer Research). 

I hope we can make progress on this.i got the impression Nick was seized of our arguments. Im hoping he will be leading the charge inside Whitehall for a rethink. 

Further meetings are planned. I know a group of my arts and heritage members are meeting Jeremy Hunt on Thursday. And Eric Thomas was going hot foot to a meeting with Vince Cable where he will be forthright on the problem universities face. As a number of those talking to Nick said this measure is already having effects with donors saying they need to rethink donations. David Bull will be tackling international development. 

The Giving Summit on May 8 th will be the deadline for action by Government. When we need more people to give more it is perverse to have a measure that restricts that giving. So I guess I'm optimistic that if we lobby well between us, as both umbrella groups, philanthropists and charities we can get this changed. 

And interestingly I went for lunch at Sarasin and partners , the investment group that does a lot of work with charities and their investments . A number of those at the lunch were confirming that their clients were saying this measure will impact at least the quantum of their giving as well as the extent .  This is not what we need when we face huge financial pressures. 

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