News and Comment from Roy Lilley.

I’ve done it.  Maybe you have?  Standing in the high street rattling a tin.  It’s not as rewarding as you might imagine!

The kids will often ask what you’re doing.  Some teenagers look at you like you’re bonkers.  The late 20’s to 40’s avoid eye contact.  Any one over 40 is likely to give you a smile and some small change.

Gratefully… peel off a badge… stick in on them, quick.  Very important.  Not just to say thank you… there’s a herd factor in play.

It’s where it all starts…

…fresh water for villages, new legs for soldiers, new friends for old soldiers, new homes for tired donkeys, new love for abandoned cats and dogs, new lives and education for kids…

.. massive change starts and survives by people giving up an hour, standing in the high street… smiling like a trouper… saying thank you.

Charities can be founded on the memory of loved ones, a passion for survival, or a burning desire to make the world a better place.

There are lots of charities.  Probably too many?  They overlap; only 19% of small charities collaborate to any meaningful degree. In an article for Civil Society, Pauline Brookhead argues; 

‘Small charities’ failure to collaborate is creating a “lost opportunity” to solve social problems…’

Some charities are huge businesses.  Business that the NHS trusts to deliver a lot of valuable patient care.  If, putting too much faith in companies that are dependent on the vagaries of a rattled stock market, is a bad idea… is it an equally bad idea to trust the voluntary sector, dependent on the vagaries of rattling a tin?

Heaven forbid but what would happen if the public fell out of love with Macmillan or The Terrence Higgins Trust.  The NHS would face a mess.

Charities depend on coming up with new ideas to persuade us to part with our hard-earned.  We’ve gone for making jam to making an attempt on Kilimanjaro.

A big idea, that has gone badly wrong, is Chugging; the irrepressible, irritating and far too cheerful, happy band who accost you in your lunch hour in the high street.  Is there a polite way to tell them to chug-off, that works?

Charities, come in and out of fashion.  Help for Heroes stomped all over the British Legion’s turf.

Fund raising costs money and professional fund raising costs real money.  The argument runs; a pound donated to a cause creates a pound’s worth of charity.  

Put a pound into fundraising it might well produce two or ten times the value, but donors don’t take lightly to charities with balance sheets and over heads like a Fortune Five Hundred company.

Writing, in the Guardian, Dan Pallotta tells us;

‘… Disney could make a $200m movie that flops… it doesn’t occur to anyone to make a complaint. But if a charity tries to test out a $1m fundraising idea and it doesn’t produce a 75% profit in the first 12 months, its integrity is called into question… charities are petrified of attempting any daring new revenue-generating initiatives…’

Following the banking crisis, in 2014 the voluntary sector faced a crisis.  One in six thought they’d close within a year.  The London Voluntary Service Council reported 27% of its members had closed in 2013.

If charities are to make the transition, becoming a player in the third sector, they need rock solid balance sheets, reserves and money that is not going to good causes.  Its a dichotomy.  

Contracting with the NHS or social care requires the governance and and rigour we expect from businesses.  Hence charities becoming more like businesses.

Can they manage it?  For many there is a perfect storm; contracting margins become tighter, social care shrinks, opportunities disappear, money is short… people turning up for help swamp the charity… they can’t survive.  

Food banks emerge.  Local responses better than national charities?  It’s a thought…  

One of the world’s biggest charities, with a fine reputation over years is the Red Cross.

The boss of the British Red Cross is Michael Adamson, he plans to cut £10m from its costs and described the NHS as a ‘humanitarian crisis’.  He’s worth listing to.

The Red Cross has just produced an excellent report ‘In and Out of Hospital’, a dissection of services and their paucity and solutions wrapped in excoriating common sense.  It is a calm, well presented, easy, cuppa-builder’s must read.

When the Red Cross speaks, we would do well to listen.

I’ll be in conversation with Adamson at the King’s Fund on the 19th February.  The details are here, come along and as we are feeling 

charitable; reply here and the first ten will have a free ticket.  


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Reproduced here at by kind permission of Roy Lilley.