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Annual Review for Charities: 2019 in Perspective

Welcome to our fifth annual review. Once again we have curated articles and information on a diverse range of subjects, all focused on the charity sector. As ever, thanks to our contributors for their insights.

Collaborations and mergers for sustainability and impact

Written by: James Evans, Partner and Solicitor, Head of Charities & Social Enterprise, Tozers LLP

Collaboration in the charity sector is nothing new. Many charities already collaborate successfully with a range of other organisations at different levels, for example, in the delivery of contracted services, where commissioners often demand it.

But is there scope for more teamwork to take place in the sector? Could there be further sharing of resources such as staff, premises, facilities and other infrastructure? Or increased cooperation between charities to provide a more integrated approach to beneficiary needs?

Whilst we have seen a number of charity mergers in recent years, (and I have advised on several) many seem to be something of a ‘last resort’ response to financial pressure. Could more mergers be happening between charities working in similar fields from positions of strength, to improve provision for beneficiaries?

The story behind Empire Fighting Chance

Written by: Martin Bisp, Co-Founder & CEO, Empire Fighting Chance

The opening line when we talk about Empire Fighting Chance is that we started a charity by accident!

Our story began in 2006 when my co-founder Jamie Sanigar and I spotted two young men dealing drugs in a park near to the Empire Boxing Gym in inner city Bristol. For reasons neither of us have really understood we decided to tackle their behaviour and invited them for a private training session. Both enjoyed it and turned up the following week with a few friends. Within six weeks 50 young people were attending sessions five nights a week.

Schools then started ringing up for our services and soon after we employed our first coach. Finances were fairly precarious at this stage so Jamie and I often ended up paying his wages personally when we ran out of money!

Then in late 2006 two things happened which completely changed our attitude.

“Closing the gap” – addressing diversity on boards of Trustees

Written by: Kirsty McEwen, Partner, Higgs & Sons

The challenge of achieving diversity is a perpetual one for the third sector. Heightened national awareness in light of recent scandals, a reported decline in public trust and confidence and growing regulatory scrutiny, means the issue of diversity is firmly back on the agenda.

Research published in November 2017 entitled “Taken on Trust”, a joint commission by the Charity Commission, the Cass Centre for Charity Effectiveness, the Office for Civil Society and the Cranfield Trust, sought to establish a greater understanding of the characteristics of Trustees in England and Wales and their awareness (or otherwise) of their responsibilities and duties, in order to consider their effectiveness.

A random stratified sample of 19,064 Trustees was surveyed and the results made for stark reading. The report highlighted five key issues which Trustees needed to address, including the need to promote greater diversity within boards.

Improving health and inclusion for homeless people in Birmingham

Written by: Carly Jones, Chief Executive, SIFA Fireside

SIFA Fireside is a Birmingham-based charity working with homeless and vulnerably housed adults. We work to improve health and inclusion for some of the city’s most marginalised people. Our vision at SIFA Fireside is to be a leading charity that enables homeless and vulnerable people to take control, paving the way for healthier fulfilling lives.

Homelessness is an issue that has risen up the agenda in recent years. The number of homeless people in our major cities has increased year on year, with Birmingham reporting a 60% increase in reported rough sleepers in just the last year.

Even this devastating statistic likely underestimates the true scale of the problem. At SIFA Fireside, we see up to 160 people daily in our Drop In Centre. In fact, our numbers have reached close to capacity in 2019, when we had as many as 218 people visiting our Drop In Centre during a single morning.

A review of the past twelve months for charities, and what’s in store for the future

Written by: Elizabeth Chamberlain, Head of Policy and Public Services, NCVO

This year has been yet another one of turbulence. After months of unprecedented volatility in our political landscape, the Christmas general election ended with a straightforward result – and sent a clear message. Brexit will most definitely happen.

But there continues to be a sense that our preparations as a country will not be sufficient to mitigate the impact of leaving the EU. There are ongoing pressures on our public services: in health and social care, in education, and in many other essential frontline services, particularly those delivered by local government. Broader international economic and political concerns reflect this general air of instability.

Charities have always needed to look ahead to changes in their policy or regulatory environment, but now it is just as important for them to be aware of the political and economic landscape. Charities must learn to adapt to unpredictability, and plan for it a wide range of eventualities when they think about the future.

Four key trends in fundraising

Written by: Robin Thomas, Managing Director, Morgen Thomas Ltd

Recently, we conducted a global review of philanthropy for an international charity. The review included consultations with government and charity leaders around the world and most, importantly, with donors. Here’s what they had to say about their giving:

“I’m concerned about the unethical behaviours we’re seeing in some charities. Thankfully, the charities I support aren’t among them.”

“Our trust is now rethinking its grants strategy. We make multi-year commitments to support charity programmes, then the charities simply come back to us asking for more money or the programmes will end. That means we give all our grants to the same causes. We’re now considering making grants as seed capital to develop social enterprise where surpluses can help sustainability.”

“I used to give a few thousand here and there to lots of causes. Now I make far bigger donations to fewer causes. I’m donating the same overall amount as I ever did but now I feel I’m making a real difference.”

These comments reveal four trends which are important because charities must see fundraising not just from the perspective of their own needs, but from that of their donors. Let’s explore these trends more deeply.

Growing positivity about Ireland’s community, voluntary and charity sector’s future

Writter by: Ivan Cooper, Director of Public Policy, The Wheel

After a challenging decade for Ireland’s voluntary sector, there is a real sense of positive momentum behind the sector. The Department of Rural and Community Development is beginning to make its impact felt in supporting Ireland’s charity network, and Irish charities are becoming increasingly successful at raising funds.

Before looking at recent developments, let’s remind ourselves about the extent of the community, voluntary and charity sector in Ireland. We have 12,000 registered charities, with community and voluntary organisations forming the backbone of communities the length and breadth of the country.

The voluntary and charity sector employs around 190,000 people, involves over 50,000 as volunteer Trustees, and has an overall direct expenditure of €14.5bn a year. Over half of this €14.5bn is generated by charities themselves, and the sector fundraises over €7.5bn every year from members of the public. Importantly, the balance of €7bn per annum is contributed by the State through grants or service agreements. The Health Service Executive funds over 2,000 voluntary groups every year, and Tusla – the Child and Family Agency – funds over 700.

Time for charities to diversify their income

Written by: Lexi Shore, Partner and Head of Charities Team, A C Mole & Sons Chartered Accountants

More and more organisations within the charity sector are finding themselves in the difficult position of managing dwindling resources, whilst facing an ever increasing need for their services.

This scenario is not unique to charities – the world is facing ever increasing demands for energy, water and other natural resources, whilst managing a finite and sometimes unpredictable supply. We see innovative and sometimes controversial solutions as a result, electric cars are now commonplace and, to the dislike of some, fracking and nuclear energy are well-established globally.

But I sometimes question how innovative the charity sector is being in identifying solutions to the challenges it faces. I see so many organisations, both Trustees and management, focusing on balancing the books each year and simply stretching finite resources even further, rather than actively seeking alternative sources of funding. This strategy certainly does not seem like a sustainable one. But how many charities are being brave and identifying the need to diversify their funding sources on a timely basis and before those resources run out or reach the point of no return?

The Brain Charity and Dementia: a new musical legacy for Liverpool

Written by: Nigel Hibbert, Head of Liverpool Office, Quilter Cheviot

Everyone is familiar with Liverpool and its music scene. Over the past twelve months though, one Liverpool-based charity, The Brain Charity, has been adding to the city’s musical reputation, running a programme of singing and dance workshops to help people living with dementia.

Having secured funding from Quilter Cheviot, The Brain Charity has worked with physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and neurologists to make sure the workshops are as effective as possible, and help to improve the quality of life for those living with dementia for as long as possible. After putting together the workshops and running an initial pilot series, the charity seriously started rolling out the workshops in March 2019.

A year on from launch, things in Liverpool are going well. The Brain Charity has now run four series of singing and dance workshops, with each series featuring twelve one-hour long workshops to maximise therapeutic benefits. Word of the programme has spread throughout Liverpool, with the charity advertising its service over social media and local radio as well as reaching out across Merseyside to residential homes, community centres, churches and museums.

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