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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.

#nomakeupselfie is social media at its best

I think it is fair to describe the #nomakeupselfie trend on Twitter as a phenomenon without precedent in the charity world. As of Tuesday this week, Cancer Research UK said it had received a total of £8m in donations from the public. That is £6m more than it said it had received when I first reported the story for Third Sector on Friday.

It just goes to show how an organic trend is far more powerful than the most potent marketing techniques you can imagine.

Time to give the Charity Commission a cuddle?

It didn’t take me long in this job to realise one thing I was likely not to hear much of was praise for the Charity Commission. So I sat up and listened when last week, a number of sector bodies came to the defence of their regulator.

In the wake of another public humiliation for the commission, this time from the Public Accounts Committee, Charity Finance Group chief Caron Bradshaw said she was worried the report could damage the sector’s reputation and prompt a knee-jerk reaction from the commission.

Among other commentators were NCVO head Sir Stuart Etherington suggesting the commission was going “in the right direction”, and DSC director Jay Kennedy, saying its woes are “not its fault”, but rather the “utter failure of the government” to fund and support it properly. Frankly I expect better from the PAC,” he said.

It goes without saying it – but I’ll say it anyway – that publicly-funded bodies should be scrutinised closely, honestly and, well, publicly. But is this not getting a bit boring? And more importantly, the basic facts established, is it really useful to keep demoralising both the sector, and the commission’s staff?

It is worth remembering that critics of the PAC have suggested its approach and members are more interested in publicity than accountability

As we note on the index page of this week’s edition of the magazine, the end of last week’s Public Administration Select Committee session saw chair Bernard Jenkin MP telling the regulator’s chairman William Shawcross: “Take our best wishes back to all the staff at the Charity Commission. We know that this has been an extremely difficult time.”

As a sector, would you like to see others follow Jenkin’s lead and, like the parents of an errant child, decide to abandon the tough love, and give the commission a cuddle?

Let us know in the comments below.

Was my dry January for the wrong cause?

It wasn’t hard, but I’m glad it’s over: that’s the best summary I can find for taking part in the Dryathlon for the second January running. Life without alcohol felt calmer, but lacked the sharpening of mood and thought that a glass of wine can provide. The secret, of course, is to keep things moderate as the year goes on…

My family’s experience of the Plymouth Brethren

Many years ago relatives of mine were in the Plymouth Brethren, gradually moving from the ‘open’ section to the ‘exclusives’. It was not a happy time for my otherwise close family who failed to see the public benefit behind the organisation, experiencing instead separatism and fundamentalism.

What was the IoF up to?

What is one to make of the fact that the Institute of Fundraising, just over a year ago, drew up a confidential internal document scoping how it might merge the membership of the Fundraising Standards Board with its own? It was clearly more than a passing thought – the document, leaked to Third Sector, runs to nine pages and includes detailed analyses of current membership fees of both organisations and calculations of how a combined membership fee might work.

Why aren’t more charities engaging with the lobbying bill?

I took three major steps in preparing for my interview for my new job at Third Sector at the end of last year.

I polished my shoes, dug out a newspaper interview with Lord Heseltine – he who founded our publisher, Haymarket – and decided I’d try getting my head around the lobbying bill. It was getting a fair few column inches, I couldn’t help but notice.