This is where we’ll post third sector news and important updates that are useful for your organisation.

Charity governance: what to expect in 2019

Originally published by charitytimes:

Written by Louise Thomson

Last year, the charity sector struggled with safeguarding concerns, reputational management issues, GDPR panic, executive pay and a new strategic intent from the Charity Commission, which continues to focus on and raise the bar on public trust. Has there ever been a busier time for governance advisers and practitioners? Probably, but governance just didn’t make the headlines then in the way that it does today.

The charity sector wasn’t alone in its governance challenges: do Carillion, Patisserie Valerie, Nissan, FIFA (again) and the PFA ring a bell with anyone? It is worth noting that some of the developments arising from governance failures in the commercial sector will likely impact the charity sector in the coming year. But let’s take a little look back before we scan forward.

2018 brought in the following charity governance developments:

• Changes to the Charities SORP
• Implementation of the remaining provisions of the Charities Act 2016
• DCMS’ third sector strategy
• NCVO’s Charity Ethical Principles
• Scotland’s Governance Code for the Third Sector
• The Charity Digital Code
• Civil Society Futures’ final report with challenges to change governance thinking in terms of PACT – power, accountability, connection, trust – and in terms of ensuring the sector’s ongoing relevance to the wider public.

For 2019, and beyond, the governance opportunities and challenges will continue to demand time from charity boards and regulators. Some matters will be familiar and others less so.

Safeguarding, and especially the requirement to report serious incidents to the Charity Commission, will continue to exercise many charity boards, with some organisations significantly increasing the number of reports they submit each year. With safeguarding taking on a very broad definition under the reporting regime, trustees and their advisers will need to spend more time thinking about the implications of adverse and unplanned actions and behaviours that put others at risk. Such considerations will also require trustees to review their communications strategy in order to deal with any media interest as a result of reporting serious incidents to the regulator.

There may have been a concentration of activity in the sector to ensure organisations were GDPR ready, however it does not mean that all the work has been done and does not need to be reviewed or revised. It is unlikely that the ICO or the media interest in the sector’s practices will diminish, which in turn means that it should not entirely disappear from the board’s agenda.


The embedding of the Charity Ethical Principles will require attention by boards, especially as to what ethical considerations are taken into account when making decisions and how the principles are embedded within internal codes of conduct and staff handbooks. Allied to that will be a re-invigorated push for charitable companies to demonstrate their application of s172 of the Companies Act for the wider interests of stakeholders.

For those that may need reminding, s172 states: “A director of a company must act in the way he considers, in good faith, would be most likely to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole, and in doing so have regard (amongst other matters) to the likely consequences of any decision in the long term, the interests of the company’s employees, the need to foster the company’s business relationships with suppliers, customers and others, the impact of the company’s operations on the community and the environment, the desirability of the company maintaining a reputation for high standards of business conduct, and the need to act fairly between members of the company”.

Though this is something that is making more of an impact in commercial entities, it would be a wise board that looked at this matter too, even if there is a belief that the sector already does it better.

Following The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (UK) v HM Attorney General and others [2017] EWHC 1379 (Ch) ruling on the fiduciary duties of members of charitable companies, revised guidance from the Charity Commission will likely be produced to clarify the Commission’s approach to the matter. This, in turn, will require boards of membership bodies to think about their governance arrangements and ensure they are proportionate and appropriate.

Measures to improve board diversity, with particular emphasis on women and BAME candidates have been gaining traction in the commercial world over a longer period than in the charity sector. But given the communities the charity sector aims to help and represent, perhaps more impetus should be given by boards not just to recruit diverse trustees, but to ensure the workforce and volunteer corps are also suitably marbled with diversity – in its widest sense.

Reviewing the governance framework

Another development will be a planned ‘refresh’ of the Charity Governance Code. Reviewing the current version in light of the scandals and developments detailed above will be essential if the sector is to build robust governance arrangements that can meet and withstand any future adverse publicity. While a complete revision is not envisioned, it does need to reflect and reference the changing environment in terms of ethics, safeguarding, reporting and be better placed to anticipate and minimising the impact of whatever else is lurking out there about to be exposed.

And finally, there is the ongoing ‘will they, won’t they?’ anticipation of a consultation on the Charity Commission levy. Perhaps once the Brexit dust has settled there may be the political room and inclination to grasp this particularly thorny issue.

The sector’s need to review and improve its governance framework is as urgent as it has ever been, but it is not the only sector that should reflect and revise where necessary. The demand for, and interest in, governance is not waning.

We need, therefore, to be prepared to meet and respond to any questions that suggest that it isn’t essential to the frontline. Good governance is not the destination, it is the means by which each charity fulfils its objects legally, effectively and ethically. As such, it will require all involved in governance to continue to improve and anticipate future challenges so that each organisation can deliver their stated aims for the important people and communities they serve.

Louise Thomson is head of not-for-profit at ICSA: The Governance Institute

Author: Steering Member
Categories: News

Charity technology trends to watch out for in 2019

Originally published by charitytimes:

Written by Antony Savvas

In the past few months alone, some of the larger charities, such as the British Heart Foundation and Breast Cancer Care, have launched new Amazon Alexa capabilities to allow people to donate through Alexa gadgets.

These are the beginnings of organisations in the sector using much vaunted artificial intelligence. So, by this time next year, will other charities have followed this advanced path, including the wider use of digital fundraising platforms, innovative mobile apps, gamification to deliver better results, and the adoption of cryptocurrencies as part of their digital transformation efforts? Stuart Toller, director at DAM Digital, is slightly sceptical.

“Very few charities, such as the British Heart Foundation, have enough of their digital ducks in a row that they can justify spending on new technology over spending that money on improving existing services, systems or processes,” he says.

“Whilst being the first to market with an Alexa-based help and advice service might gain some valuable publicity, it’s unlikely to significantly increase income or improve service performance and reach for the majority of charities. It’s important to keep that in mind when looking at all the new shiny things.”

Another sceptic is Ed Gairdner, chief operating officer at charitable giving platform The Good Exchange. “While some larger players are making use of the latest technologies on offer – like voice-activated tools at The British Heart Foundation and the British Red Cross – even if smaller and local charities want to use new technologies, they’re unlikely to have the necessary resources to do so,” Gairdner says.

“The charitable sector is currently operating between five and 10 years behind the commercial sector when it comes to embracing the digital revolution.”

But Krystyna Grant, head of innovation at the British Heart Foundation explains that the BHF and other larger charities have a “responsibility to our beneficiaries to keep up with the technological pace of change and meet our audience where they are online.”

“Our Amazon Alexa skill opens up a new channel for donations and allows us to engage with a new audience. Almost a quarter of people in the UK now own one or more smart home devices and around one in 10 own a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo. This is likely to grow, highlighting a huge opportunity for engaging people with our work using this type of technology. Our new skill gives us a great opportunity to test the use of voice technology in a simple way at low cost,” she explains.

“We can’t afford to ignore the changing ways in which consumers behave or the potential of new technologies to enable us to have a bigger impact on our beneficiaries.”


Social media and advertising giant Facebook recently made its Workplace by Facebook online collaboration tool free for all not-for-profits worldwide. A number are already using the technology to help expedite the work they do, such as WWF, Save the Children and Oxfam.

WWF has been using Workplace to power Earth Hour, its global movement to help protect different species and the planet. Annette Gevaert, head of Workplace for Good at Facebook, says: “Social media and collaboration platforms have become incredibly powerful assets for charities in 2018, and this will continue into 2019 and beyond.”

WWF has been using Workplace to increase awareness and engagement of their events. WWF’s annual conference was traditionally attended by senior stakeholders and C-level executives alone, but is now broadcast to the charity’s entire worldwide staff via Workplace live (HD streaming within Workplace).

“Features such as this led to employee engagement increasing by more than 200% and has given WWF the opportunity to gain valuable insight and suggestions from its employees at all levels,” Gevaert explains.

The Workplace mobile app also gives WWF employees in the field the ability to share photos and videos with headquarters or other teams easily. And auto-translation tools help break down cultural or linguistic barriers.

Also using Workplace, Save the Children volunteers were able to highlight the refugee crisis from boats in the Mediterranean back to their headquarters in real-time via live video streaming. Not only is this solution free, it also uses the familiar Facebook user interface, so there should be a smooth technology “buy-in” among staff at organisations of all sizes.

Mobile for giving 

Generating hard cash through donors’ every day purchases is now a growing opportunity. The Give as you Live app is one of several that is now being taken up by charities. Annabelle Risdon, director and head of partnerships at shopping and fundraising website Give as you Live, says: “With cash use declining, many charities know how difficult it is to do traditional fundraising these days, so having other options is vital. That said, many charities don’t have the resources to build their own technology to fundraise digitally.”

To help solve this problem, the Give as you Live mobile app became available this year on Apple iOS, with an Android version for other devices due out in early 2019. Shoppers can use the app to raise money for charities as they buy things at more than 4,300 retailers.

The Border Collie Trust, located in Staffordshire, is one of the many charities benefitting. Recently, it had to relocate its kennels to make way for the HS2 high-speed rail link. Through the app and other digital assets provided by Give as you Live, the charity raised more than £10,000.

Lyn Prodger, corporate partnerships manager at children’s charity my AFK, another organisation using the app, says: “We’ve got hundreds of Give as you Live supporters who’ve raised more than £10,000 for my AFK. The unrestricted funding we receive helps fund specialist mobility equipment, employment opportunities and training for the disabled young people we work with.”

Cryptocurrencies for good 

There are millions of computers that are left idle, so why not put them to good use to raise money for charity? Cudo is a technology that turns unused or wasted computing power into cryptocurrency.

Whilst computers are idling, Cudo uses this spare capacity to generate income for charities by “mining” for electronic currency. So far, Cudo Donate has been adopted by The Children’s Air Ambulance and War Child. Founder Matt Hawkins’ mission is to “raise $1bn for charity within the next five years”.

Hawkins says: “From UNICEF to the RNLI, charities are waking up to the immense power of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology [the secure data sharing and transaction system]. Using a technology-driven approach should allow charities to attract a new, younger but also tech-savvy demographic.

“This could be of critical importance when you consider that the average age of supporters for some charities is 60 plus. Who will replace this demographic if charities can’t attract the youth of today?”

Hawkins explains that cryptocurrencies do not have to replace any existing revenue streams, but could attract new supporters. “For example, many charities use direct debits to get people signed-up and committed to a payment stream. Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology does away with the need for direct debits and may attract a different kind of supporter, who either doesn’t want the hassle of setting up a DD, or worries about the security implications of having their financial data with a third party,” says Hawkins.

Gamification and measuring impact 

It’s hard to collect data on the impact of campaigns, even though this is important to help raise future funds. Makerble aims to make it easier to collect the information by using gamification. It helps charities collaborate on projects, track individual beneficiaries, collect survey results, analyse progress towards outcomes and share ideas.

Wave Trust’s 70/30 Network is a grassroots campaign that has become a national movement powered by the Makerble platform, and The African Foundation for Development is now using Makerble to streamline its impact measurement and frameworks for reporting back to funders.

Charities can start for free, then upgrade if they need to, picking the services that are right for their needs. Charities with an annual income of less than £50,000 can apply for a year’s free pass on the platform.

“Impact measurement doesn’t have to be boring, we can make it fun, easy and accessible, with user-friendly tools and games,” says Makerble. The system replaces paper-based forms, surveys and spreadsheets with an all-in-one tool that staff, volunteers and donors can hopefully enjoy using.

All these technologies do not involve charities having to rip out the systems they already use, they are designed to complement what they have, which is a safer and more gradual approach to digital transformation.

Author: Steering Member
Categories: News

2018: a year in review for the charity sector

Originally published by charitytimes:

Written by Charity Times

Last year, Brexit dominated headlines. Reeling in from the wrath of the referendum, 2017 was very much a year of ifs and buts. Whilst 2018 has not been any less uncertain, it has simultaneously been a year this sector is unlikely to forget.


Brexit was well and truly trumped this year by safeguarding (or lack of). It became the new buzzword – the topic at the forefront of every conference, seminar and public speech. It was an issue that started with a news story and quickly spiralled into an endemic sector crisis.

Of course it all started with Oxfam. In February this year, Oxfam was accused of covering up for senior aid workers, who allegedly used prostitutes while working in earthquake-hit Haiti. According to a 2011 report seen by The Times, Oxfam allowed three men to resign from their positions and sacked four male employees for gross misconduct, after they launched an inquiry into sexual exploitation, bullying and intimidation.

The newspaper revealed one of the men who was granted resignation without disciplinary action was the charity’s country director in Haiti, Roland van Hauwermeiren, who had admitted to using prostitutes at the property rented for him by Oxfam with charitable funds. The incidents, which allegedly took place shortly after the Haiti earthquake in 2010, were raised by a whistle-blower who claimed the men had partaken in “sex parties” at the residence.

Oxfam subsequently launched an inquiry into the allegations, which also included the downloading of pornography, and noted there was a “culture of impunity”, that meant other members of staff didn’t feel they were able to speak up about the inappropriate incidents.

Naturally, following the revelations, Oxfam was accused of helping to cover up the scandal, by allowing Hauwermeiren to resign before the investigation had closed. But Oxfam certainly didn’t sit back and take it. After having its name branded across almost every newspaper possible, it took a number of steps to react appropriately to the allegations.

The first in a series of responses from Oxfam came in the form of a ‘package of measures’ unveiled by the charity’s chair, Caroline Thomson. In a statement published shortly after the story hit the headlines, Thomson said she “shares the anger and shame that behaviour like that highlighted in 2011 happened in our organisation”.

“In the words of our chief executive Mark Goldring, we are ashamed of what happened. We apologise unreservedly. We have made big improvements since 2011 and today I commit that we will improve further.”

However, no package of measures could prevent the charity from suffering any immediate effects. Within a matter of days, the charity had lost over 7,000 regular donors, later resulting in a considerable amount of cuts, reportedly worth £16 million.

The charity’s chief executive has also since announced he will be stepping down from the post, welcoming CIVICUS chief Danny Sriskandarajahr to the role instead. Upon the announcement, Goldring said he believed “fresh vision and energy” were required to shape Oxfam’s future as it implements the lessons learned from its past safeguarding mistakes.

Further reputational issues 

Oxfam wasn’t the only charity to suffer a blow to its reputation, however. Save the Children’s handling of allegations of misconduct and harassment against its staff also became a topic of interest this year.

The charity was under public scrutiny after it emerged concerns had been raised about inappropriate comments made by former chief executive Justin Forsyth. Two trustees carried out two separate investigations into complaints made by three female employees that resulted in an “unreserved apology” from Forsyth, according to a Save the Children statement in February.

Save the Children subsequently made public details of two reviews of behaviour and culture at the charity, after leaked extracts were published by the BBC. This found failures in the way the complaints had been handed and was critical of the management culture at the time, finding “evidence of uncomfortable and/or unsafe behaviour towards colleagues at Save the Children UK”.

The charity also established an independent review in February, led by organisational ethics expert Dr Suzanne Shale”, into its workplace culture and met with the Commission at the time, as well as over 2015/16, to discuss allegations of harassment and misconduct.

Regulatory intervention

Following both safeguarding failures, the Charity Commission was quick to set out steps to improve safeguarding among the charity sector. The regulator said it had concerns that Oxfam may not have “fully and frankly” disclosed material details about the allegations at the time in 2011, its handling of the incidents since, and the impact that these have both had on public trust and confidence.

The Commission’s chief executive, Helen Stephenson met with the Secretary of State for International Development in February and claimed they both agreed that charities need to do more to ensure high standards of safeguarding and set the right culture and tone at the top and are committed to ensuring that this is the case.

“It is vital that trustees set a culture within their charity that prioritises safeguarding so that it is safe for those affected to come forward and report incidents and concerns with the assurance they will be handled sensitively and properly by charities,” she said.

“Full and frank disclosure to the regulator and the relevant authorities, nationally and internationally, is also key. Everybody has the right to be safe, and the public rightly expects charities to be safe and trusted places for all who they come into contact with.”

Civil society strategy 

This year, the sector also witnessed the introduction of the government’s new Civil Society Strategy, which unveiled a number of changes to “strengthen the organisations, which hold our society together”.

Some of the government’s main announcements included releasing £20m from dormant charitable assets and placing the funds into grassroots community organisations. The inactive funds will also be plugged into the improvement of the take-up of the Social Value Act.

Upon announcing the consultation for the new strategy, Minister for sport and civil society, Tracey Crouch said the strategy is an opportunity to “explore ways to build partnerships between public sector bodies and charities, to mobilise resources and expertise and find new solutions to the problems the charity sector faces.

“It will reaffirm the value that government places on civil society. It will explore what more government can do to support its work,” Crouch said.

The strategy also pledged to strengthen corporate social responsibility by setting up a new Leadership Group with senior figures from business, investment and social sectors. It also promises to ensure charity trustees reflect the communities they serve.


Digital also featured heavily in the strategy, with the government pledging to launch regional pilots to trial creative ways of involving people in local democracy, such as through online polls for community decisions.

Following the announcement in the strategy, the government also announced plans to grant £1m to charities in need of support for digital skills, which Jeremy Wright, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said will fund training to help charities develop a better understanding of how technology can make it easier for them to achieve their goals.

A separate Charity Digital Code was also published in the latter part of this year, designed to provide charities with practical advice on incorporating technology into their work.

A need for the Code was recognised following the Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index 2017, which showed only 48 per cent of charities have full basic digital skills, and 50 per cent of charity leaders lack confidence in introducing digital change.

Minister shake-up 

In other news this year, Tracey Crouch resigned from her role as charities minister due to a delay in changes to betting rules.

The former minister for sport, civil society and loneliness, who is responsible for wide range of cultural issues including charities, said it is with “great sadness” to have resigned from “one of the best jobs in government”.

The resignation follows reports of Crouch’s ‘fury’ after the government made an announcement in the Budget to delay plans to cut the maximum stake for fixed odds betting terminals from £100 down to £2.

Crouch, along with former Culture Secretary, Matt Hancock, reportedly pushed hard for this policy, which was designed to reduce the negative impact excessive gambling can have on society.

Following Crouch’s departure, Mims Davies, who is the MP for Eastleigh, was unveiled as her successor, taking on the wide-range of responsibilities the role involves, including sport, charities, horse racing, the National Lottery and society lotteries. The role also now involves work on loneliness.

Despite calls for the role to be split up, with many charity leaders arguing civil society requires a role of its own, there is still no sign of the position changing.

Davies was previously a minister in the Wales Office and has been a government whip since the beginning of the year. In 2017, she ran the London Marathon in aid of Cardiac Risk in the Young, raising over £1,000. She is also a trustee for military charity, Building Heroes.

Commenting on the appointment, ACEVO CEO, Vicky Browning, said: “It is great for the sector that we have a minister who has demonstrated her commitment and passion for charities by running the marathon in aid of a charity and by holding a trustee position in a small armed forces charity.

“Like her predecessor, it seems she will not need to be convinced of the value of charities but, also like her predecessor Mims Davies has a large brief and it is important that she demonstrates her belief in the value of charities by prioritising the implementation of the civil society strategy.”

Author: Steering Member
Categories: News

What were the most read charity opinion pieces of 2018?

Originally published by charitytimes:

Written by Charity Times

As the year draws to a close, we take a look at the five most popular opinion pieces to have hit the Charity Timeswebsite this year:

1. Louise Thomson: The seven deadly sins of trustee recruitment

“Charities and their boards don’t always help themselves when it comes to recruiting new trustees. With 90 per cent recruited by ‘word of mouth’ and only 10 per cent of trustee positions advertised (according to Getting on Board research), it is unsurprising that charities regularly report that trustee recruitment is challenging.”

Read more here.

2. Louise Thomson: When is the right time for trustees to move on?

“Individual trustees must be honest in the self-reflection of their performance and commitment. As human beings however, and for the best of intentions, we are not always that honest with ourselves. Unfortunately, this lack of self-awareness can have a real and adverse impact on those causes for which we claim to be working.”

Read more here.

3. Rebecca Packwood: Other small charities should consider a merger like ours

“Contrary to my initial expectations, it became apparent that partnering with small local charities was not the answer. The key to the long-term sustainability and growth of the charity would only come with a larger national organisation, who could offer a much greater scope for expansion without compromising on our values and would help us retain our individual identity.”

Read more here.

4. David Fairnsworth : Our sector is at tipping point 

“Funding for charities from the EU is currently worth at least £258m a year. Brexit will inevitably put this at risk, putting even greater pressure on everyone in the sector. Right now, the situation is that there is greater need and less money. With around 163,000 charities in the UK the desire to support good causes is there, but most have a very low income.”

Read more here.

5. Caron Bradshaw: Charities are still being far too quiet about Brexit

“Wherever you are on the politics of this, there is one thing we must all do now – speak up for our beneficiaries. If you haven’t already done so, make representations to your MPs. Your voice is critical and we are fast running out of time for consideration to be given to the issues of most importance to our sector.”

Read more here.

Author: Steering Member
Categories: News

What can fundraisers expect from 2019?

Originally published in charity times:

Written by Becky Slack

The past few years have proven to be a huge challenge for fundraisers, who have had to work against a backdrop of media scrutiny and greater competition. Will 2019 be any lighter on the chaos? Becky Slack explores.

Fewer people are giving to charity but they are also donating more. This was the result of CAF’s UK Giving 2018 report, which reported a sector income of £10.3 billion, up from £9.7 billion the previous year. The figures also pushed the nation up five places to sixth in CAF’s 2018 World Giving Index.

“This is down to the incredible work of the fundraising community who inspire people to give and connect with the causes they care about,” a spokesperson for the Institute of Fundraising said at the time.

Finally – a positive story for fundraisers who, over recent years, have battled against a volatile economy, continued austerity measures, media scrutiny and much greater competition. Will 2018 be remembered more favourably than others? And what could 2019 have in store?

Time to wave goodbye to cash? 

While traditional forms of donating remain popular for now – for example, cash remains the most common way of giving money to charity, with over half (55%) making gifts in this way – charities are mindful that this is likely to change and are taking steps to adapt.

For instance, UK Finance’s 2018 report, UK Payment Markets, showed that contactless payments have increased by 97%, meaning for the first time in the UK, payments by debit card are more common than cash. Charities are paying attention to this with Teenage Cancer Trust, Sue Ryder Care, Mary’s Meals, Blue Cross and the Barbican among those who have begun to use contactless technologies within their fundraising.

Spitalfields Music is another. Since June, it has been using contactless to collect donations at its performances. “We found it difficult to find a supplier at first,” explains the charity’s director of O development, Dominic Haddock.

“Lots of pilots had been set up a year or two ago, which hadn’t yet been reviewed and understood, and some companies were waiting for this analysis before bringing on new partners. We found ourselves stuck in the middle with nowhere to go. Then luckily, we found Good Box.

“We adjust the amount to be taken depending on the type of event we are holding, and we make an announcement at the start of the performance so that people know to expect it. Donors seem to be really enjoying it. For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve used it, so they find it quite fun.”

However, he reminds charities that the lack of data collection provided by contactless means this is a facility to “replace a bucket rather than develop a new giving programme”.

Digital adoption

Overall, the charity sector is still grappling with new and digital technologies. Hindered by a lack of skills and confidence, adoption of digital tools and platforms is lower than most organisations would like. Salesforce’s 2018 Nonprofit Trends Report, which looked at charities in the UK, North America and Australasia, found that while 60% use social engagement platforms for fundraising, only a third use “community platforms to connect stakeholders and marketing automation systems to foster personalised journeys”.

However, that looks set to change in the coming months and years: “While only 5% of non-profits have AI capabilities, that figure is forecasted to skyrocket by 361% over the next two years. The prevalence of constituent-facing mobile apps is poised to rise by 174% within the same time period, and the use of marketing automation is set to double”, the report said.

Retail trends 

Digital is also playing an important role within charity retail. A trend that has continued from last year, there has been a large increase in online sales of goods via third-party websites with charities experiencing an 18% increase in this income year-on-year. However, this was tempered by a large decrease in sales through charities’ own websites of almost a third, meaning that overall online sales have increased by 2%.

The Charity Retail Association (CRA) confirmed that charities are feeling positive about the role digital plays within their retail businesses, with 89% expecting their online sales to grow in 2018/19 and none predicting a drop.

“Charity retailers are becoming more proficient in selecting which donated items to put online and using more expertise in displaying them. Retailers have realised that it can be valuable to list niche items online, so they are more likely to reach their target audience,” Matt Kelcher, head of Public Affairs and Research at the CRA says.

On the high street, the picture is also one of confidence. While the number of charity shops fell by 119 in the first six months of 2018, according to figures from the Local Data Company, this does not necessarily mean they are experiencing difficulties.

“Some charity chains are opening new stores, others are closing some outlets to consolidate their position. Shop closures are not necessarily a sign of problems, particularly as the charity retail sector is outperforming the commercial retail sector on high street as a whole,” Kelcher says.


Time consuming, complicated, and in many cases, expensive to implement, the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) implemented this year pushed data collection and data management to the top of many fundraising agendas. Ensuring compliance with the rules has not been an easy process for many organisations, particularly those such as Cats Protection, which have complex organisational structures.

“Much like everyone else, GDPR has been our main challenge for 2018. For us it was especially difficult as we have over 250 branches and adoption centres. We’ve managed to tackle the challenge head on through a GDPR working group, which involved a lot of our digital fundraising manager’s expertise and a specialised email project team to support our branches.”

While it is still very early days, it would appear that the hard work is paying off. The ICO pointed to its recent audit of eight large charities, which showed “a great deal of positives as well as areas that can be improved upon”, while the Fundraising Regulator said: “We’ve been particularly impressed with the proactive and progressive way in which the sector has risen to the challenges posed by GDPR.”

However, this does not mean the sector can rest on its laurels. More data regulation is on the horizon in the form of the EU ePrivacy Regulation, the draft of which is scheduled for 2019. It will update regulation around electronic direct marketing, including social media, and will deal with important issues such as confidentiality of information, treatment of traffic data, spam and cookies.

The Fundraising Regulator has confirmed it will be producing guidance to help charities prepare for any changes they may need to make as a result of the new regulation.

Charities rule 

In addition to GDPR, 2018 saw a complete overhaul of the Code of Fundraising Practice by the Fundraising Regulator and a new, updated version being published for consultation.

Multiple changes over the years had made the Code complex, unwieldy and in places unnecessarily repetitive, so the revamp aims to simplify things. The new version was open to consultation during the latter part of 2018. Following this will be a full and technical legal review, with the new code scheduled for publication in March 2019.

This year also saw the Regulator bedding in, with its second birthday, the collection of 94% of its target levy, and an increased number of small charities engaging with it. Its profile in the wider world also increased, said a spokesperson: “For the year 2017 to 2018, we answered 1,325 enquiries, received nearly web 180,000 visitors and over 5,000 newsletter subscribers, while FPS has received over 20,000 suppressions.”

Elsewhere, the Charity Commission launched a new statement of strategic intent, which includes an enhanced focus on ensuring charities live up to their purpose and the high expectations of the public.

“Charities should fundraise responsibly in order to pay the generous public the respect it deserves. Our guidance for trustees is clear that decisions around raising funds should consider a charity’s best interests and not be at odds with its values,” Sarah Atkinson, director of policy, planning and communications says.

Diversity in fundraising 

The increased focus on diversity within the workplace was embraced by the fundraising community in 2018.

The Institute of Fundraising has been leading the charge on this front – beginning with the foundation of an equality, diversity and inclusion panel; the launch of an access fund to support fundraisers from minority backgrounds to attend Convention, and the publication of a Manifesto for Change, which has set out how the Institute aims to become an exemplary employer as well as how it can support the fundraising profession to be the same. Expect much more focus on this through 2019.

Author: Steering Member
Categories: News

Antonia Swinson: why do charities see property planning as an optional extra?

Originally published by charitytimes:

Written by Antonia Swinson

It is a bitterly cold winter’s afternoon, but luckily for me, I am at a roundtable in the City of London’s warm Guild Hall, courtesy of City Bridge Trust. A senior group of guests are discussing the findings of the first London Charity Property Survey which my organisation, the Ethical Property Foundation, recently published in partnership with the Charity Finance Group. It wasn’t a large-scale study – just 138 CEOs and finance directors – but covered every London borough and social mission.

Some issues were expected. Namely, the difficulty in sourcing funding for property and the challenge of finding suitable premises now the full-on retreat of London’s local authorities as charity landlords is underway. However, the big difference between London and the rest of England and Wales is the shift to renting from commercial landlords – 40% compared to 33% of charities we surveyed in England and Wales as a whole.

How are commercial landlords responding to the complex needs of this sector? We share experiences of flexible home working and how Cloud technology is creating big changes in charity management. The issue of course, is that the vulnerable people we serve require appropriate premises. And what if charities are community bases, serving costly areas such as Soho or Victoria? They can’t move out to cheaper neighbourhoods. How could the planning system and the London Mayor’s office address the desperate need for social workspaces?

As you might expect, property costs are a big issue for London charities, accounting for over 20% of total expenditure for 16.5% of respondents. Of those we surveyed, 28% of charities consider property as a barrier to delivering their charitable objectives, with 20% citing a lack of affordable premises and 8% a lack of space.

Too few charities realise that property management is part of financial management. This should not be surprising given so many finance directors have responsibility for premises. Every charity undertakes financial planning, so why is property often seen as an optional extra?

Yet despite this, 68% of the London charities we surveyed do not have a strategic property plan. Just over half (51%) say no-one with appropriate expertise is specifically responsible for property within their organisation – 9% higher than the rest of England and Wales. Unsurprisingly therefore, 24% have experienced and 19% anticipate they will experience unforeseen property costs. But it was a shock for our roundtable guests to see that 53% of London charities surveyed do not report regularly on property to trustees, compared to 44% across the whole of England and Wales. Why not? Are trustees not interested?

More than half of London charities (51%) do not carry out regular risk assessments on their property, a significant 10% difference, compared to the 61% of charities in the whole of England and Wales that do. And staggeringly, 36% of London charities do not keep complete records of the property they own or rent. One solicitor present said he was asked, on average, every 18 months for copies of the lease – by the same charity.

Our survey indicates that there are vast numbers of worried and stressed out Londoners in the voluntary sector, working to change the world for the better, in property that may or may support them.

Outside, the dusk is falling and the City of London’s tall buildings begin to wink, as lights are turned on in office floors, which crawl up into the sky. Except they don’t. Most floors of most of the office tower blocks are a dark void. No one’s there. They’re empty properties, but not for the likes of us. Instead, it’s a visual representation of market economics and how our sector is now really going to have to wise up and fight for space in our capital.

The first London Charity Property Matters Survey is available as a free download from the Ethical Property Foundation website.

Antonia Swinson is the chief executive of the Ethical Property Foundation.

Author: Steering Member
Categories: News

Community bands together to help foodbank after break in

Content originally posted by

A foodbank in Braintree hit by heartless thieves who made off with their van and equipment, has been rescued just before Christmas by a £12,000 grant from funds managed by Essex Community Foundation (ECF).

The break-in took place at Lakes Industrial Park, in October and the devastating blow left the charity struggling to collect donated food and deliver it to their four distribution centres in Braintree district.

A replacement van had to be hired to keep up their vital work of supplying food to people in financial crisis.

Last year, the foodbank distributed almost 40 tonnes of food to 3,268 people, including nearly 1,300 children.

Faced with the task of buying a replacement van, Dorothy Lodge, funding co-ordinator at the foodbank, phoned ECF for help.

The independent grantmaking trust manages 154 charitable funds on behalf of individuals, families and businesses. The Foundation awards grants from these funds to support the work of local charities and community organisations throughout Essex.

Dorothy said: “We rely on the van to pick-up donated food from local businesses and collection points and then getting it to our centres to help people who need our support. It has been tough without it.

Having a local funder like ECF to turn to has been a lifesaver. The grant has helped us to buy a replacement van and we are so grateful”.

Caroline Taylor, chief executive of ECF said: “We were shocked to hear about the break-in at the foodbank and were pleased to be able to respond so quickly to their request for help. They do sterling work and are coping with a growing need. The much-needed grant has come from pooling money from the RSM Community Fund, the Jean and Peter Davey Charitable Fund and the Yellow Car Charitable Fund.”

RSM, a tax and accounting firm based in Chelmsford, set up their corporate fund with ECF in 2008.

Jennifer Collins, manager, said: “The work of the foodbank is commendable and without it, people who are struggling to feed themselves and their families would go hungry. When the Foundation brought the foodbank’s terrible situation to our attention, we knew we had to help. We are so pleased to award them a grant from our fund with ECF to help to contribute to the cost of their new van.”


Author: Steering Member
Categories: News

Long read: how to be a better charity leader in 2019

Originally published by charitytimes:

Written by Lauren Weymouth

In the elephant kingdom, the female matriarch becomes the leader of her herd, not because she is the strongest, most aggressive or assertive in personality, but because she has earned the respect of other elephants. The matriarch asserts her leadership through her wisdom, strength and her skills in social intelligence, problem solving, patience, confidence and compassion.

Like many great leaders – human and otherwise – the matriarch uses her excellent social awareness to understand the elephants in her herd and provide them with a space to grow as individuals. More importantly, she shows moments of stillness, whereby she stops to assess her surroundings. In these moments, she uses her senses to the fullest to become more aware of the direction and activities of the herd.

In a position of authority, stopping to seek stillness isn’t easy. Many charity leaders would struggle to remember the last time they stopped at all. But the public’s perception and expectations of charities has changed dramatically over the past year and it has become essential to ensure your organisation is adapting to the needs of both donors and beneficiaries.

Protecting the herd

Charity leaders are now faced with two choices: embrace change or fail. With over 160,000 charities registered in the UK, competition is tough and leaders need to be quick if they want to snap up new opportunities as and when they arise.

But unfortunately, competition isn’t the only issue to contend with. Thanks to the unearthed Oxfam scandal, which was quickly followed by news of similar troubles at Save the Children, charities are under more scrutiny than ever from the public, corporate donors and regulators.

Following the raft of media reports surrounding the sector’s safeguarding issues; trust in charities plateaued down to levels unseen since 2005 and the Charity Commission quickly began to tighten its regulation around charity safeguarding, placing greater pressure on leaders to put strict measures in place to keep their organisations from external harm.

Since the Oxfam allegations, the regulator has released numerous warnings, urging charity leaders to strengthen their safeguarding policies, but has received little reassurance in return. A report released by the Charity Commission’s interim taskforce on safeguarding, found just 0.9% of charities have reported a safeguarding incident since 2014. Over the same period, only 1.5% of charities submitted any kind of serious incident report.

“We accept that there may be a significant proportion of charities that do not experience safeguarding incidents, or only experience such incidents very rarely, due to the nature of their work,” the taskforce said at the time, “however, it seems unlikely that 99.1% of charities did not experience any reportable safeguarding issues over a 4 year period.”

“The public rightly expect charities to demonstrate the highest standards of ethical behaviour and attitude,” Charity Commission director of policy, planning and communications Sarah Atkinson says. “That includes taking action when something has gone badly wrong, or when there’s been a near miss. Making a serious incident report to the Commission is not in itself an admission of wrongdoing or failure. Quite the reverse: it demonstrates that a charity is responding properly to incident or concern.”

All eyes and ears

Raising and reporting concerns requires careful observation, and a good understanding of the people working within the organisation. Much like the matriarch elephant, this is where it becomes crucial to seek those moments of stillness to spot any potential danger signs.

Unfortunately, a high proportion of the risks facing charities come from within the organisation itself. This year alone, countless numbers of charities became victims of internal fraud, often by unassuming members of staff looking to take advantage of their position of power.

In a warning issued to charity leaders, the regulator claimed almost 75% of insider frauds at charities are facilitated by “excessive trust” and a “lack of challenge” from people working from within the organisation.

The watchdog’s findings highlighted a number of ‘cultural factors’ that contribute to insider fraud, including giving employees excessive responsibility, or failing to challenge individuals properly. As a result, the regulator has been encouraging leaders to try and adopt a culture whereby staff, trustees and volunteers are all reminded they need to flag any concerning behaviour happening internally, rather than ‘turning a blind eye when internal processes aren’t followed’, as is often the case.

“The crucial lesson for charities isn’t about introducing lengthy counter-fraud policies. It’s about changing people’s behaviours and encouraging staff and all those involved in charities to be vigilant and speak out when things don’t seem right. This must be demonstrated by everyone in an organisation to be truly effective,” Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission explains.

“A dangerous combination of a lack of accountability and controls not being consistently applied can make any charity – big or small – vulnerable, and create opportunities for fraudsters that will have devastating effects.”

Significance leadership

So what can leaders do to prevent such instances from happening? In the case of the matriarch elephant, strong leadership and successful teamwork comes from careful career planning and on-the-job training to ensure there is at least one experienced leader who respects the matriarch, and is ready to take on the role when something goes wrong.

Environmentalists call this ‘elephant significant leadership’, which the matriarch will demonstrate by showing respect to each member of her team by analysing and valuing the skills they can individually bring to the group.

This method of leadership is often transferred into business, as it encourages leaders to gain a better understanding of what skills each employee can bring to the organisation, and to inspire them to thrive. Leadership expert, Simon Sinek articulates this well: “Every company, organisation or group with the ability to inspire starts with a person or small group of people who were inspired to do something bigger than themselves,” he says.

But for best results, leaders will always benefit from a more diverse team that can offer a multitude of different skills and experiences in the first place.

Despite this, diverse leadership teams are still scarce among the charity sector. In fact, according to a study published by recruitment company Green Park this summer, a third of the UK’s largest charities have no non-white people on their senior leadership teams or boards.

The study used a sophisticated classification system to assess the ethnic background of people holding more than 1,800 positions at the top 100 charities, and found that only 8.1% of senior positions were held by people from ethnic minorities. Worryingly, the figure fell to 6.2% when narrowed down to include only the top three positions of chair, chief executive or chief finance officer.

Leadership body ACEVO, together with the Institute of Fundraising, has subsequently released a list of principles for leaders to abide by to help plug the diversity ‘deficit’. These, ACEVO claims, will help leaders to prevent groupthink, generate more income, operate more creatively and attract best talent.

The bodies propose leaders should do the following:

1. Acknowledge that there is a problem with racial diversity in the charity sector and
commit to working to change that.
2. Recognise the important role leaders have in creating change by modelling positive behaviour and taking action.
3. Learn about racial bias and how it impacts leadership decisions.
4. Commit to setting permanent and minimum targets for diversity that reflects the participants, donors, beneficiaries and the population of the area that my charity operates in.
5. Commit to action and invest resources, where necessary, in order to improve racial diversity in my charity.
6. View staff as the sum of many parts rather than a single entity and recruit to build a diverse group of talented people collectively working towards a shared vision.
7. Recruit for potential, not perfection.
8. Value lived experience, the ability to draw from one’s lived experience and to bring insights to an organisation that can develop its work.

“No-one is getting it all right: we all have to be better,” Vicky Browning, chief executive of ACEVO says. “However if leaders do get it right then they will create stronger, more resilient and creative charities.”

Bridging the skills gap

Moving into the year ahead, the expectations placed on charity leaders will continue to increase. Volunteers and employees of charities of all sizes are now looking to CEOs, directors and managers to lead the way – and not just on the issue of diversity. They are looking to their leaders to embrace digital and to be able to showcase good examples of using digital effectively.

The Charity Digital Skills report published by Zoe Amar Communications earlier in the year revealed 63% of charities expect their leaders to be able to provide guidance around digital, and a further 53% said they want leaders to have some experience or understanding of digital tools – a demand that has grown year on year.

“If there is one thing I would like people to remember about this year’s Charity Digital Skills report, it’s this: charities want their leaders to drive digital. They cannot put digital in a black box and pass it to another team,” Zoe Amar explains.

“If your leadership team aren’t on board with digital, it’s time to discuss the benefits of how digital could help your charity and the risks if your charity doesn’t change. Often the best way to do this is to show how similar organisations are using digital to raise money, reach more people or create competitive advantage.”

Lessons from a matriarch 

Matriarch elephants are trusted and respected because of their ability to make wise decisions. Whilst other members of the herd might offer suggestions or contribute to the overall decision, the matriarch uses its wisdom to reach an overall decision and to protect its herd from any danger.

But much of this is down to its careful observation; a skill that is essential for learning and development. This year alone, charity chief executives have had to contend with political volatility from Brexit; heightened safeguarding regulation; a fall in levels of public trust; a number of new governance frameworks; increased fundraising regulation; disruptive technology and much more.

Jennifer Smith, a biology professor and co-author of a report into leadership in mammalian societies, studied leadership among animals, and found that in troublesome environments, leaders can learn a thing or two from the way elephants and other animals lead their teams. “What we found here is that, time and again, the most successful leaders are actually those that take all of the demands from the society into account,” she explains.

“[They] don’t necessarily know to negotiate or navigate through their worlds,” she adds, “but through the leadership of the more experienced individuals, they can [learn] new insights.”

Author: Steering Member
Categories: News

Big Lottery Fund to plug £1m into safeguarding training for charities

Originally published by charitytimes:

Written by Lauren Weymouth

The Big Lottery Fund and the government have teamed up to provide safeguarding training to charities across the UK.

The announcement comes as part of the wider government strategy to improve safeguarding practice across the voluntary sector in England.

Together, the DCMS and Big Lottery Fund will invest £1.14m to improve access to training, support and advice. The funding will come over two phases until 2022.

As part of phase one, The Safeguarding Training Fund will be seeking an organisation or partnership of organisations with the track record and knowledge to develop high quality resources, which will be freely available to the voluntary sector to improve safeguarding practice.

Charities are invited to express their interest up until 13 January at 11.59pm. In mid-January, up to three organisations will be asked to submit a full application for funding.

The deadline for full applications will be 17 February and phase one will commence at the end of March 2019.

Phase two will commence in spring/summer 2019 and will provide funding to a small number of organisations or partnerships.

The funding will allow these charities to share the resources developed during phase one and support grassroots charities and community organisations to improve their safeguarding practice.

More details are available on the website

Author: Steering Member
Categories: News

Small charities optimistic but lacking partnership skills

Originally published by charitytimes:

Written by Mark Evans

For the last two years, the Weston Charity Awards Small Charity Leaders survey has provided a barometer of the confidence and concerns of small charities.

This year, despite general political unrest and uncertainty, the sound of cautious optimism is emerging from the sector. The survey does also highlight concerns the role of central and local government on whose support they rely and even the sector’s own ability to work effectively with larger organisations, particularly in the private sector.

Nearly two out of five (38 per cent) small charities expect their income to rise over the next year and a half (46 per cent) expect to maintain current income levels. Optimism is on the rise, with only one in eight (16 per cent) small charity leaders forecasting a drop in income in 2019 compared to a third expecting a fall at this point last year.

Growing confidence for the future is also reflected in small charities’ impressive ambitions to expand their services next year. There is a significant increase in the number of charities saying they plan to help more people in the next 12 months – nearly four in five (78 per cent) in 2019 compared to nearly three in five at the end of 2017.

However, there is unease at the operating environment that charities will find themselves in. Over two thirds (69 per cent) of leaders say there is more uncertainty in their operating environment than in previous years. In the last year, a quarter had to deal with the impact of the withdrawal of a major funding source and more than one in 10 has closed services.

On top of this, the advent of increased regulation, including GDPR, leaves two thirds (71 per cent) of leaders saying they had struggled to meet the challenge. Other challenges were in recruiting for a key role (37 per cent) and setting up a new partnership was a challenge.

Indeed, building partnerships with the commercial sector was the skill most charities lacked. This year, over half (51 per cent) of small charities are seeking this skill, only second in priority to fundraising (57 per cent). Around two out of five (38 per cent) said both IT & digital skills and branding and communication expertise were top priorities for their charities.

For Charity Times advice on partnerships click here.

Author: Steering Member
Categories: News