Posts By: David Ainsworth

The thorny question of lobbying by charities

Should a charity be allowed to use charitable donations (and charitable tax reliefs) to try and change people’s minds? And should an organisation that dedicates itself mostly to campaigning be allowed to call itself a charity?

These are the questions that came up recently in a Parliamentary select committee that dealt partly but not entirely with the controversial question of the Plymouth Brethren and their charitable status.

In truth, it’s a very thorny question, and wherever you position yourself, there seems to be a different answer. Read more on The thorny question of lobbying by charities…

Getting to know the Brethren

Last week, I met up with two members of the Plymouth Brethren, who came to talk to me about their religion. They are currently involved in a struggle with the Charity Commission to prove that their charities and meeting halls provide a public benefit, and were keen to show their usefulness to the community at large.

I don’t propose to repeat all their rules, which I wrote about here but I will say I found them absolutely fascinating. Read more on Getting to know the Brethren…

Are young trustees really such a good idea?

Trustee Week gets under way today, and there have been plenty of calls that we should sign up more young people as trustees.

As a former young trustee, I’m not convinced this is the best idea.

In my teenage years and early twenties I was a board member at my student union, and remained involved as a volunteer until about the age of 25. Read more on Are young trustees really such a good idea?…

Ethical investment is more than beating one bastard while funding three others

As part of ethical investment week, now drawing to a close,  the Charity Finance Group published a survey of its members that found that  just over half had any sort of ethical investment policy, and that of those who did, most only used “negative screening”, where they avoid companies which have activities that go against the charity’s aims.

Read more on Ethical investment is more than beating one bastard while funding three others…

The Small Charitable Donations Bill should be index-linked

I wonder if it’s time for the charity sector to change tack with its lobbying on the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme.

The GASDS, and the Small Charitable Donations Bill that will bring it into existence, have been criticised because of the bureaucracy involved, particularly the need for a good Gift Aid record before you can take part, and the need to collect at least £1 in Gift Aid for every £2 raised under GASDS. Read more on The Small Charitable Donations Bill should be index-linked…

Social finance and winning contracts fit well together

This week, a Third Sector feature looks at how charities are creating new intermediaries to win government contracts – organisations focused on gaining business and becoming big, allowing local charities to win business while remaining relatively small, close to their beneficiaries, and focused on delivery.

One of the key issues highlighted was the need to get in place financial products which can support those organisations. Read more on Social finance and winning contracts fit well together…

Workfare presents a difficult PR question for the sector

The charity sector doesn’t seem to have much to say about the government’s new “workfare” scheme, announced last week, that will see 6,000 unemployed 18 to 24-year-olds required to work unpaid for 30 hours a week.

However, like it or not, it is the sector’s problem. The terms “voluntary organisation” and “charity” were being bandied about liberally by the government during the launch. They’re giving a pretty clear impression that they plan for many or most of these placements to be in the voluntary sector. Read more on Workfare presents a difficult PR question for the sector…

Did the Futurebuilders fund do any good?

The Social Investment Business revealed some interesting figures about Futurebuilders last week – chiefly, that it has £28m of unspent repayments sitting in its bank accounts, some of which has been there for at least five years.

Another revelation was that only another £85m or so is outstanding. For a fund originally billed as having £215m to lend, with mooted repayments of £400m, this is a bit of a comedown. Read more on Did the Futurebuilders fund do any good?…

Charity regulation is all over the place

Earlier this month, a National Audit Office report for the Public Administration Select Committee laid out the scope of the charity sector in the UK. It revealed, basically, that charity regulation is all over the place.

There are almost 350,000 charities in the UK, with a total income of more than £120bn. Less than half of these – around 163,000 charities, with a combined income of £55bn – are registered with the Charity Commission.

Of the rest, around 2,500 are housing associations and educational establishments. With a combined income of £62bn, these organisations make up most of the missing income. Read more on Charity regulation is all over the place…

Withdrawing Gift Aid for late filing of accounts makes no sense

Lord Hodgson’s proposal that it should be easier for charities to pay trustees has drawn the most ire from the sector, but his proposal that Gift Aid be withdrawn from charities that file their accounts late is perhaps the one that seems to make the least practical sense.

First of all, Gift Aid is of vastly different importance for different charities, so the penalty for late filing is not a uniform one. Many do not claim Gift Aid at all. What happens to them? Read more on Withdrawing Gift Aid for late filing of accounts makes no sense…