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Six-hour Tory love-in at the Acevo summit

How many ways can you say I love you? That was the dilemma facing members of the shadow Cabinet when they turned out in force yesterday to cosy up to a hundred or so charity delegates at the Conservative Party third sector summit.

Chief executives body Acevo is staging summits with the three main political parties to find out their plans for charities.

This one was held in Millbank, where Labour masterminded its 1997 election victory. Millbank is now the Conservative HQ and, as Acevo chief executive Stephen Bubb pointed out in his welcome speech, home of our dear Charity Commission. This caused some titters.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne got things going by talking about charities running more services. Shadow Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude then criticised Labour’s ‘initiative-itis’, but with a general election probably just seven weeks away delegates could have really done with a few more details.

In the absence of any new policies or initiatives and with six hours to fill, the speakers resorted to ways of saying how inspiring, professional, passionate, innovative and expert charities were.

The last time the Tories were in power, Dolly the Sheep was being cloned and the closest many Conservatives got to the voluntary sector was opening the annual village fete. Who would have thought then that 13 years later the party’s entire top team, bar its leader, would fill a lecture room overlooking the River Thames with humble charity folk?

The Tories have certainly come a long way, but time hung heavy. Engaging is all very well, but at this stage of the electoral cycle something more conclusive is required.

  • Robin Bogg

    Where did you get the idea for it being a Tory love-in from? I am intrigued

  • John Lehal

    We got more clarity from the Conservatives, but in terms of something more conclusive, the top questions left in my mind around the practicalities are:
    * How do you get commissioners to take risks and innovate? Philip Hammond talked about “softening them up”. How?
    * How do voluntary sector organisations survive when being paid on a PBR basis? The expectation on the Social Investment Bank will be high.
    * How will commissioners make qualitative judgements when there is downward cost pressure?
    * How do you break down the producer interest to ensure there is co-design of services with full user involvement?
    * How do you pay by results when some outcomes can’t be measured – for instance with public health benefits? Sometimes things can’t only be attributed to one source – how do you build this into PBR?
    So when’s the follow-up summit?

  • Charlie Smith

    Hmm that Stephen Bubb has come a long way from Labour Councillor and Chief Whip on Lambeth Borough Council to Tory love-in

  • Mark Atkinson

    Jane – you are spot on with this blog. Totally and unequivocally agree.

    In my most recent role we didnt even use the term “Corporate fundraising”. Instead, I developed a “Commercial Fundraising” team which specifically targetted the marketing budgets of prospective partners.This won’t work for every charity but it can work very well for decent sized membership organisations whose members have a clear propensity to purchase specific products or services. What we essentially did was create an agency for companies to reach our member base through the development of carefully selected and exclusive partnerships. We had a menu of off the shelf activity which companies could choose from on a pic n mix basis to provide a bespoke campaign which we then delivered over an agreed timeframe. This included advertising, product placement, distribution and sampling, competitions, market research, affiliate programmes, introducer arrangments and of course sponsorships and the development of completely bespoke initiatives of mutual interest.

    The results of this were outstanding. We were cheaper than going through an intermediary agency with all the associated costs, we had the trust of our members and companies benefitted from the halo effect. We even monitored propensity to purchase on behalf of the company. The net profit was great and we had contracts against which we ringfenced funds to deliver project based activity.

    4 things to remember in all this is

    1. The role of company procurement managers who are prevalent in larger co’s esp FMCG’s is simply to get best value for the company. They wont have been involved in negotiations with the brand team so you wont have a relationship with them. They will try and bash down the price so allow for a little flexibility in your costings so they feel they are getting some concessions.
    2. The importance of getting the contract right because if you dont then it doesnt matter how well you negotiated things can get messy esp when there are staff changes which frequently happens with brand managers who get moved around regularly
    3. Ensure you are totally au fait with data protection requirements if contracts require you to promo direct to your members/ supporters
    4. Never give a company brand exclusivity only give them exclusivity for the product or service they are working with you on for the duration of the contract. Exclusivity is expected but dont prevent your charity from being able to work with other competing brands. You will lose out on money if you allow this to happen. Make sure the contract is clear on this.

    Adhere to these rules and act in accordance with your clear ethical policy and the right charities can do very well with this approach.

    Mark Atkinson
    VCSchange