As we come within touching distance of parliament’s dissolution, on Tuesday I attended the social leaders debate organised by Acevo and CAF, featuring Rob Wilson, the Conservative Minister for Civil Society; Lisa Nandy, his Labour shadow, Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Nathan Gill, leader of Ukip Wales and an MEP for Wales, and Bill Rigby, chair of the Harrogate & District Green Party.
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I’ve been to Twickenham Stadium countless times before, but never quite like this. I’d been invited to attend the England versus Scotland rugby match on Saturday because the Rugby Football Union, the governing body for rugby in England, was launching a new charitable venture.
I first met Terry Pratchett in the early 1970s when we completed the Lyke Wake Walk, a 40-mile route over the North York Moors said to cover paths once used to carry coffins to burial. He was a subeditor on the Bath Evening Chronicle, the former workplace of one of the other three of us, all reporters at the Telegraph and Argus in Bradford. The walk has to be completed within 24 hours if you are to become a “dirger”, join the Lyke Wake Club and claim your coffin-embossed tie.
You might be familiar with Google Poetics – a website and Twitter feed showcasing ‘poems’ created by the autocomplete function in the Google search engine. The premise is this; if you type the word ‘David’ into Google, it’s likely to give you autocomplete suggestions like ‘Cameron’, ‘Beckham’ and so on. Try it with all sorts of things, and the resulting poems are funny, bizarre or even disturbing.
In recent weeks, one topic has repeatedly cropped up rather quickly in conversations I’ve had at the various sector events, conferences and launches on which I’ve been unleashed. That topic is the feature Third Sector has put together on executive salaries in our March edition, out this week.
Mention the phrase “ice bucket challenge” and many of us still feel a shiver from remembering just how shockingly cold the experience was. But for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, the craze was a game changer.
The charity, which received more than £7m of donations in about three weeks last summer while the idea swept across the country, held an event at the British Medical Association’s HQ in central London last night to celebrate the funds raised and announce what it planned to do with the unexpected windfall.
As a professional commission watcher, it’s been a bit of a full-on fortnight what with all that’s been going on with the Charity Commission.
Headlines have been the release of the National Audit Office report on the commission and its resulting analysis by the sector, the appearance by Paula Sussex, chief executive of the regulator, in front of the Public Accounts Committee to be grilled both on said report, and on its action in the bizarre case of the Durand Academy, a school with a dating agency registered to the same address, and the reappointment of chairman William Shawcross.
The idea that negative media coverage doesn’t affect charities’ income seems to be losing credence. Last summer, the head of Oxfam’s market insight team told a Market Research Society event that charities should stop wasting resources defending themselves against critics of charity administration costs and salaries because such critics wouldn’t donate to them anyway; and the RSPCA told me in November that the Daily Mail’s open season on the charity over the past two years had had no effect on its bottom line.
It’s easy to mock the BBC TV series The Apprentice. Very easy indeed; so easy that even the BBC does it. That notwithstanding, it is perhaps the single most prominent showcase for entrepreneurship in the UK.
When it brought in the Charities Act 2006, the last Labour government left it to the Charity Commission to try to ensure that independent schools provided sufficient public benefit to justify their charitable status and the tax advantages that go with it.