So, Sir Stephen Bubb is stepping down as Chief Executive of ACEVO ((Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) after 15 years, to head up the Charity Futures Programme (CFP) – a project that will research and develop new ways of securing strong governance and leadership in the sector, which sounds very much like the CE role at ACEVO, in which case he will be very well qualified.
Coming a few days after David Cameron’s muted resignation, it got me thinking about the legacies of those defending the third sector and those who seem intent on damning it. Cameron’s legacy for the charity sector, with a little help from pal, George, is an overburdening of need, as a result of the smallest state for decades, positioned as a necessity austerity measure.
This would be hard enough for the sector, but in a time of increasing regulation (justified if mishandled) and damning press about charity fundraising practice; increased demand and competitiveness is not exactly what the sector needs, or more poignantly what beneficiaries need.
Increasingly, I meet charities that have been reliant on a small proportion of their income from the state to give them a foothold and some security, upon which they can build and do great work in the community, combined with the ever-generous support of the public. Without that foothold many were exposed the fallacy of Cameron’s ‘Big Society’, where everyone was supposed to carry on supporting those in need voluntarily. Unsurprisingly, that folly failed, despite the best nature of many, yet it was used to camouflage the damaging cuts happening right under our noses.
A contribution from the state to help grassroots charities deliver services – which in many worse off countries around the World would be seen as essential and state-funded – is not the same as the denigrated vision of ‘state-dependency.’ The obvious consequence of reducing funding for schools, education, welfare, etc, is that the third sector is forced to pick up the pieces and aid those who fall through the cracks of a creaky system.
The maths simply don’t work; static donation levels / (more people in need x rising costs) – Daily Mail effect = breaking point.
So, coming back to my original question: who is fighting our corner, who is saying enough is enough? I joined the third sector in 1999 and I still don’t know whose role it is to say that this current slide into over-competitive saturated fundraising is unsustainable. Is it champions of the sector such as Sir Stephen Bubb? Is it the Minister for the Third Sector, the Labour Party, Momentum, the Guardian, ACEVO, NCVO, the Institute of Fundraising, Small Charities Coalition, the ‘big’ charities, Tim Minchin, Kermit the Frog?
I wish I had the answer. If anyone does could they let me know. In the meantime my money’s on Kermit.