The Charity World

I normally blog on a Monday and Friday. However, I am driven to this morning by some proposed legislation and recent comments I’ve read. These relate to charitable organisations, an area that, as a former award winning charity Director, I like to think that I’ve some experience of; 36 years’ experience, to be precise. All of this admittedly in small charities, some local and some national. Each of these operated at the sharp end in our society. In one case helping people who were homeless and unemployed to build their own homes. In the case of that particular charity, we provided our services for free as, by definition, those we supported had little money. So we fundraised to pay for the staff, between one and three people, so that we could provide this service. As a result, when I left the charity, there were about 300 homes and 30 community buildings that, with others, we’d helped to create. Watch the episode of “Grand Designs Revisited” that featured Hedgehog Self Build Group, if you’re interested.

At which point, I make a shameless plug for one of my books, “The Real Big Society and My Part in It” which describes much of this work. This features a chapter, “The Charity World” which does what the title suggests. The figures it uses are from the National Council for Voluntary Organisation’s “UK Civil Society Almanac, 2010”. To save you time I include these below. The Almanac categorises voluntary organisations into five sizes, micro, small, medium, large and major. Of these:

Micro organisations have annual incomes of less than £10,000 each

Small ones have incomes of between £10,000 and £100,000 each

Medium ones have incomes of from £100,000 to £1m each

Large ones have incomes of £1m to £10m each

Major ones have incomes of more than £10m

What is noteworthy is that over half of these (53%) are in the first category where they are unlikely to have any paid staff at all. A further 31.5% are small, 12.5% are medium, 2.5% are large and only 0.25% are major charities. So, approximately 85% of them have annual incomes of less than £100,000. By any definition, they are not large and also, as a matter of fact, won’t be paying their staff excessive salaries. Also interesting were figures relating to the sources of income for these organisations which showed that 78% of all voluntary organisations received no income at all from statutory sources, with such funds that are available going mainly to the larger ones. The relevant figures were:

Micro charities receive 5% of their income from statutory sources

Small charities receive 22%

Medium ones 35%

Large ones 38%

Major ones 37% of their annual income from these sources

So that 53% received just over a quarter of its funding from statutory sources and it had to go through hoops even to get this. What I’m trying to say, in my usual roundabout way, is that voluntary organisations work, in the main, with people who have little, the organisations themselves are small, they don’t pay great wages and, if their staff, if they are like me, don’t even like the concept of charity. I wanted to change lives so that those we helped could help themselves. Just as I did when I started out in the sector as an unemployed single parent on a job creation scheme all those years ago.

Finally (and then I will calm down), in relation to lobbying, I would like to quote Dom Helder Camara, who was the Bishop of Recife in Brazil from 1964 until 1985. He is quoted as saying, “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but, when I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist”.

Now having a strong cup of coffee.

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