We must remain dogged in opposing a Charity Commission levy

Don’t get trapped into playing the wrong game instead of the long game

Regular readers will know that we recently acquired a puppy called Arthur. I think it’s fair to say that the pup we got was not quite the pup we anticipated. I arrived home from an evening engagement recently to be greeted at the door by a wild-eyed, panting wreck who barked at me “our dog is an arsehole! I’ve almost murdered him three times tonight!”

Arthur, meanwhile, was regarding me with an air of injured innocence while trying to eat the sleeves of my blouse. “I’ve sat him down and explained that the way this household is running at the moment is not working for me,” growled my partner, Andy. “I’ve told him ‘your behaviour is unacceptable and needs to be improved’.” Apparently Arthur responded by looking at him thoughtfully then jumping on his head and trying to eat his hair.

So it’s fair to say that thus far our training is not going according to the text books (which, unfortunately, Arthur hasn’t read). Arthur has massive tantrums when we say ‘”no, drop it”, which is exhausting, but we know that at some point, with patience, practice and persistence, a well-behaved, affectionate dog will emerge. So we play the long game and don’t give up even though he’s very hard work and it might be easier in the short term to give in.

And that is true of the communities we want, the society we want, the world we want. Defeatism (which is often barely disguised as “pragmatism”) does not change the world.

It’s too easy to feel defeated when things are not going the way you hoped and have worked for. But it’s so important to remember that this is only part of life and not all of life. Prime Ministers move on, Presidents get booted out, puppies grow up. History shows us that nothing can permanently stop progress or the innate goodness of human beings. So. We. Must. Not. Give. Up.

This is so true for charities. We must make sure that, when we campaign or seek to influence, we don’t get trapped into playing the wrong game instead of the long game, and don’t get caught in the tactical and lose sight of the principle.

It is also true for our beloved Charity Commission. Its obsession with charging charities is completely understandable and I have so much sympathy for the position in which it finds itself. But it is a reaction to current circumstances; a short-term response to a funding crisis that will, in the long term, produce a bigger funding crisis. It’s not a strategic response; it’s playing the short game for the sake of an easier life now. The commission needs to be firm with the Treasury: “This is what we can do with what you give us. If you want more, you will need to give more.”

Because when we say no to charging, we say it because caving in now is not in the best interests of the citizens, communities or the commission. We must stand firm and, with patience and persistence, keep saying “no, drop it!” And we must then stand by the commission’s side and argue the case to the Treasury for more funding. Patiently, persistently – and, indeed, doggedly.

This article was originally published in Third Sector