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Hurd leaves a long relationship

When Nick Hurd was introduced as the longest-serving charities minister
at a reception at the Institute of Fundraising convention last week, he muttered something enigmatic about how much longer it would last. Whether under pressure or otherwise, it seems likely he had already knew by then that he would be going.

Tired and emotional at the IoF convention

Another year, another Institute of Fundraising National Convention. Although for me, it was actually my first. I’m reliably informed by colleagues though that the emotive presentations, back-slapping of IoF board appointees old and new (and fundraisers in general) and appearance of celebrities last seen in the 1990s (Ruby Wax, Loyd Grossman) that took place over the three-day event was fairly typical convention protocol.

Is the regulator’s bread-and-butter approach working?

This might not be the most surprising of revelations, but I must say that yesterday’s Charity Commission public meeting in Manchester didn’t really get my pulse racing.

For the most part it was an afternoon of bread-and-butter stuff – literally so in the case of the first item on the agenda, a sandwich lunch. There followed an introduction from William Shawcross, in which the regulator’s chairman returned to what is rapidly becoming his trademark refrain of “we are not the Stasi”. He was followed by three officials outlining trustee responsibilities across three areas: conflicts of interest, safeguarding and fraud prevention, and campaigning.

Bad news might be better than you think

Here are three headlines that you didn’t read on ThirdSector.co.uk in recent weeks: ‘Police take swift and appropriate action after charity discovers serious crime’; ‘Charity Commission steps in to stop abuse of charitable assets and sector’s reputation’; and finally ‘Researcher reveals issue charities must understand in order to improve its standing’.

You might, however, have comes across the headlines ‘RNLI employee arrested on suspicion of fraud’, ‘Muslim Aid one of thirteen charities named as subjects of statutory inquiries’ and ‘Nearly half of business leaders ‘concerned about professionalism of charity heads’.

The irritations of online giving

A squabble between a charity and an online giving site last week aptly demonstrates the nervousness that many charities feel in the wake of the collapse of the CharityGiving site last year.

The row – in which the two parties squared up through the media (i.e. me) – took place after George Overton of the children’s charity HCPT The Pilgrimage Trust, aired his grievances about a site called Giveall.org in a comment on the Third Sector website.

Tea with Simon Cowell, and why the Health Lottery is no bad thing

Simon Cowell asked me to go to tea with him this week. Actually that’s only partially true: more accurately, I was invited by a PR person to a rather civilised afternoon tea hosted by the TV talent guru and the media mogul Richard Desmond to celebrate the Health Lottery.

The lottery, which manages 51 society lotteries across Great Britain, has ruffled some sector feathers since it was set up in 2011, but it has also raised £50m for charities, CICs and other organisations working to combat health inequality. That’s good going: of course only a nasty cynic would point out that Desmond, who launched the game, had said it would raise £50m in year one alone.

Who’s offering what, and to whom?

“What is your big offer?” Sir Stephen Bubb, head of charity leaders body Acevo, asked charities minister Nick Hurd at last week’s Gathering of Social Leaders.

The speech that followed did not have any ‘big offer’ to woo the sector. Nor did the subsequent addresses by Lisa Nandy, Hurd’s shadow. Nor that of final speaker Jon Cruddas, the shadow cabinet office minister.

Late filing: excuses, excuses…

The Charity Commission’s class inquiry into ‘double defaulters’, charities who have failed to submit their annual accounts two or more times in the last five years, rumbles on.

Various reasons were given by the dozen charities whose non-compliant behaviour has been outlined in the reports released so far, in three batches of four; the first in January , the next in March, the most recent last week. And, albeit from a relatively small sample size, a pattern begins to emerge.

Paula Sussex and the bed of nails

The Charity Commission offered the job of chief executive to Paula Sussex at the end of February, and finally got around to announcing it yesterday. The delay is officially explained as “normal processes of appointment and resignation.” Being translated, this tends to mean various kinds of horse-trading, to-ing and fro-ing with the Cabinet Office, and sorting out the details of what is known these days as “the package”. Public appointments always seem to be delayed and long drawn-out these days; but at least we’ve finally got there.

The sector needs to take a positive approach to ageing

“Sixty-five is the new 50” was a statement that got many people at the launch of the Commission on the Voluntary Sector and Ageing’s first report smiling. But, despite effectively having 15 years taken off my age and being transported back to my twenties, I left the event feeling somewhat downbeat.

The report, ‘Age of Opportunity: Putting the ageing society of tomorrow on the agenda of the voluntary sector today’, was launched on April Fools Day, causing Dan Corry, chief executive of NPC to worry that people would think it was a prank. But a good number of people did turn up to find out what it was all about, even though a few who I spoke to said they were not sure what the commission would achieve.