Policy, campaigns & research

10 truths about the sector

If you work or volunteer for charities sometimes it can feel like you need to be a diplomat - taking different views into account, managing stakeholders and just ‘making things work’. But sometimes you just want to cut straight to the point and say what you really think.

Here’s a list of things that no one in our sector will probably admit to (to be taken with more than a pinch or two of salt!)

  1. We’re never really working in partnership with government: We always say: “yes of course let’s work together”, but mostly we just want government to support us and not get in the way. People are passionate about what they do and have different viewpoints – which makes collaboration hard.
  2. We are actually good at impact assessment: We just don’t use the language of government or economists. We do want to understand the difference we make – often it just isn’t a cut and dried metric, or costs too much, and we’re more concerned with keeping the ship afloat.
  3. Most of us have never heard of the Lobbying Act: No one really understands it all. Most are either ignoring it or taking it way too seriously and not campaigning when they should.
  4. We don’t care about public opinion: Individually, we’re not terribly interested in polls, popularity or populism. We’re about helping people – plenty of whom are unpopular or have been treated badly by institutions or sections of ‘the public’.
  5. We’re not as left-wing as people might think: The majority of charity trustees aren’t rock-throwing political revolutionaries. Often, they’re the well-connected elite. Dig into the data and you’ll find much of the sector’s volunteers and trustees are probably more right than left.
  6. Government money doesn’t matter to most of us: The bulk of the charity sector runs on giving from individuals – whether national campaigns or local tin-rattling, or grants from trusts and foundations. Over-regulating fundraising affects the entire ecosystem, to the detriment of the public purse.
  7. We’re here to stay: Charities don’t run away when the money dries up. People’s commitment and passion means you get tons in return when government invests in us.
  8. Commissioning services sucks: We waste a load of time filling out endless bids and paperwork, constantly pressured to compromise service quality over price. This benefits nobody – not us, not the state, not beneficiaries, and not even the taxpayer.
  9. Stop reinventing the wheel: Many people in the sector have been around the block and seen the same things recycled as ‘reforms’ many times. We get it – politicians like novelty – but maybe just make some good old wheels that work well, a bit shinier?
  10. We don’t really care about government strategies: Will any new strategy influence us? Not much probably. 120-page documents with 40 recommendations are hard to remember and harder to implement. Strategies come and go. We care about beneficiaries, not strategies.