Later this week, we’ll see the results of the sector’s two year efforts at Gift Aid reform – a set of proposals which will be given careful consideration by Justine Greening, economic secretary to the Treasury.
I suspect that when the final document is published, campaigners will feel like a group of fire fighters who went into a burning house to rescue a baby on the fifth floor, failed, and emerged with a cat they happened across in the lobby.
No one has yet publicly admitted that Gift Aid reform has gently expired, suffocated in a smoke of focus groups and empty promises, but there are certainly private mumblings to that effect. No one has started the hearse just yet, but round the back of the church, two extras from Hamlet are quietly preparing a plot.
Of the major sector figures involved in negotiations, only Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, has really admitted that Gift Aid reform is ailing and unlikely to recover, and has left the bedside because he has better things to do.
More evidence that the idea is deceased is likely to come on Thursday, when none of the multifarious grand proposals suggested last year will be included in the final document.
This is not to take anything away from the campaigners, however. They have laboured mightily for little reward. Gift Aid reform has proved an impossible task, and it would have taken a miracle to get much meaningful out of a Treasury with no money, scant resources, and a debt the size of Belgium looming over every decision.
The sector is still, at the very end of the process, not actually sure what it wanted, and has managed only to agree that it wants a database of donors and the right to submit declarations online.
Even then, the extent of enthusiasm for these measures was shown in a CFDG poll, when several charities with multi-million pound incomes admitted they wouldn’t chip in £50 of their own money to make them happen.
If anything, what the process has proved is that Gift Aid is not without its shortcomings, but is still not all that bad. A change in its administration, not an overhaul of the whole structure, is perhaps what was needed from the start.