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Gagging to get rid of the gagging act?

I have spent a fair bit of time over the past few weeks speaking to people about the lobbying act, putting together a feature that begins on page 32 of the May edition of Third Sector, out today. A feeling I got from this, and previous experiences, is that a number of people are not really speaking their mind about the act.

The sector hustings – now with added Ukip

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.

A welcome boost for rugby charities

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.

Remembering Terry Pratchett

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.

Google Poetics: the charity edition

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.

This is thanks to a tool called Google Instant Search, which predicts what you’re about to look for, based, Google says, “on what other people are searching for and the content of web pages indexed by Google” – i.e. you’re getting a sense of what the rest of the internet’s users have been looking for already.

Charity executive salaries: a century-old concern

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.

Breaking the ice with royalty

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.

A full-on fortnight for the commission

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.

Changing media coverage of charities won’t be easy

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.

Social entrepreneurs: Lord Sugar wants you! (Probably)

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.