Not So Charitable?
SOS is a small charity. Not just small, but tiny, with extremely limited resources, yet there is an appetite for our services. And we have an appetite to deliver.
We are not alone. There are many smaller and micro Charities around the UK doing invaluable work which is not funded and relies purely on the generosity of the public, or through winning local authority service provision opportunities.
The founders and workers of these charities are often subsidising services out of their own pockets and work for years on a voluntary basis.
For many medium and larger charities however, the story is very different.
Salaries amongst senior executives of larger charities are well publicised and the charitable sector has come under scrutiny and criticism because of what are seen to be inflated pay packets of their Executive level staff. Given that a large percentage of the work is carried out by volunteers who are not remunerated (except for their expenses), is it any surprise that eyebrows are raised and questions asked?
Are such huge salaries really warranted? Who is funding these salaries? Do these charities need prime location offices that surely utilise funds that could be better applied in delivering services to those in need? In a time when it’s proven we can adapt to working from home, we would hope that all businesses consider what is, and is not, essential expenditure.
All charities strive to do excellent work and those who are key in implementing financial and service delivery strategies, taking sometimes difficult decisions and developing sustainable relationships deserve to be paid for what they bring to the table. But a financial polarisation exists. There is a basic unfairness and inequality. And it’s not just about salaries.
Many smaller charities simply do not have the resources or knowledge to submit what can be complex grant applications. Furthermore, the (sometimes) intricate analysis and data reporting required if a grant is awarded leaves smaller charities wondering how on earth they can possibly comply.
Most importantly, when staff are removed from delivering the service to put together reports and collect data, they are not there for the people who need them.
The announcement by Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently handing a £5m pot to assist smaller charities sounded wonderful. To be administered through Mind, (and one has to ask why another charity was asked to be the custodian and distributor of these funds), it was designed to assist those charities who are all too often forgotten, but are offering necessary and crucial support services not just during Covid-19, but beyond.
Just for a minute, consider a micro charity with just 1 or 2 people running it, and there are many of these. Doing everything from social media, fundraising, compliance, web updates and most importantly, delivering services to those in need.
Also consider slightly larger charities whose staff are the ones that deliver the services to the public and would be expected to provide the reporting, reducing the time spent on service delivery.
Now, take a look at this:
Extract taken from the Mind Application Form Guidance Notes. Copyright Mind
‘1.4 How this fund will work
Although the funding available is for twelve months of delivery, the application form will only
ask you to specify how you intend to respond to immediate needs in the first three months of
delivery (between May – August 2020, depending on when your activity starts). If your
application is successful, we will ask for monthly catch-ups in this initial period in order to
understand your experiences and how you are managing emerging challenges. At the end of
this three-month period, we will ask that you submit a project plan for the final period of
delivery, and will work with you to ensure that this meets both your organisation’s needs as
well as the ambitions of the fund. Please note, these plans for the end of the three-month
period are dependent on the status of the coronavirus pandemic, and government guidance
about public health in relation to this.
Because of this approach the application will ask you to outline:
your plans for the coming months
the track record of your organisation in delivering services similar to the one you are
your organisation’s experience of involving people with lived experience of mental
health problems in leadership roles1′
Of course, money has to be accounted for. But there is an assumption that charities have the necessary resources, eg staff, time, knowledge, to provide this level of reporting.
There HAS to be a level of reporting introduced that is structured to reflect the capabilites and resources of smaller/micro charities. Without this, applications from those the money is designed for, may well decline as compliance is an impossibility. For those that do apply, and succeed, at what cost to the vulnerable they help through lost delivery hours?
With all the above in mind, we are fully supporting The Kaleidoscope Plus Group and their #togetherforchange campaign . Please take a read and sign their open letter to the Government.
Because right now, what appears to be charitable is not so charitable after all