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Amalgamating dormant funds is sensible, even if it means Aberdeen’s aged virgins lose out

Last week, Aberdeen City Council announced plans to amalgamate 41 charitable funds, including one established in 1634 for the benefit of “aged virgins” and another set up in 1718 to aid “persons deprived of the use of reason” – a brilliant phrase indicating that political correctness was alive and well in the 18th century.

These funds, all of which hold less than £20,000, will be amalgamated into a fund worth around £130,000, which will be spent for the good of the people of Aberdeen.

It’s not a huge amount, but it’s a lot better than nothing, and there’s every reason to suggest that similar funds are out there, held in trust by every council in the UK. If Aberdeen is typical, there could be many thousands of charitable bequests like this that could be hoovered up to be used for the good of the people.

Decisions like Aberdeen’s are increasingly common in Scotland, but are unlikely to be replicated south of the border, because of a difference in charity accounting. Every charity in Scotland, no matter how small, has to submit accounts to OSCR, meaning that suddenly, councils have discovered a responsibility to submit accounts for scores of charitable trusts with negligible assets and wholly outdated objects, such as the preservation of horse troughs, the provision of fish on Fridays to the deserving poor, and the upkeep of elderly virgins.

In England, these charities are exempt from submitting accounts, and this money is likely to remain unused, and in the hands of councils who do not even know about it.

It has not just affected the smaller funds, either. In other cases, the OSCR says, it has reminded councils of their duty of trusteeship of much larger charities, and has allowed OSCR to suggest to them that a more effective model of governance would serve those funds better.

While it seems over the top to change charity accounting practices just to encourage good trusteeship on the part of councils, the effectiveness of this by-product of OSCR’s policy suggests it might be worth looking at how to encourage councils in England to put the resources they hold in trust to better use.

  • This is really a practical reminder that social media – like any operational activity such as marketing or PR – is best used as subordinate to, and in the service of, the core purpose, goals and values of any organisation or company.

    • Jackie Ballard

      Yes, that was the point I was trying to make – it’s a tool, sometimes the best tool but not always – and not the only tool. Thanks for commenting.
      Jackie

  • Matt Collins

    I agree with that – I believe most of those on the top 30 list are good at engaging people both online and offline. They prioritise the important ways of interacting, and add social media to the mix. This allows them to reach those they wouldn’t be able to meet in person (due to distance, time, etc.)

  • Mark Flannagan

    Jackie is right but we also must not underestimate the power of Twitter as a way of being directly connected to our audience. As a cancer charity CEO I speak every day to bowel cancer patients through social media and it directly helps me in my work. It is one vital tool in a whole tool box.

  • Jenni

    I think true communication and connection is about addressing the needs of all your service users. So that means using all the tools well, including social media and face to face. Some users may feel uncomfortable discussing things where the person can then put a face to what they are saying. Others may not understand social media or not desire to openly tweet what is happening in their lives.

    Being great at communication is being open to all the different channels, including the good old fashioned ones and the much newer ones.

    And I think social media is so often focused on because it’s new. A lot of people, including myself, underestimate how hard it can be for others to grasp the need and positive effect social media can have in connecting people. We’ve done so many other things so well for so long, and social media is the newest and sometimes least understood in terms of potential.

    In other words, I couldn’t agree with this more: “what really matters is being approachable, engaging and listening – wherever the charity’s ‘stakeholders’ are likely to be.”

  • Kim Murphy

    I think there’s a big misunderstanding, not just in the Third Sector for how social media should be utilised to communicate with an orgs audience. At Third Sector Property (TSP UK) the majority of our audience are Charities, and I use twitter differently to how I use Facebook and LinkedIn to communicate with our clients. Twitter is to literally help tell a story of the company and to help those who follow you, better understand your values, your priorities, achievements and allow you to communicate with them on real-time, find out what issues are being discussed and offer your advise and expertise. It’s a unique medium to communicate, not to sell on and I find it hugely effective.