Three new reports on partnership working between faith and local government.

Regulator’s statutory duty to raise public trust is ‘barmy’, says charity CEO

The idea that the Charity Commission has a statutory duty to raise public trust and confidence in charities is “barmy”, the chief executive of the Royal Television Society said yesterday.

Simon Albury told the regulator’s public meeting that the whole question of ‘reputation of charities’ is nonsense:

“Nobody talks about the reputation of ‘supermarkets’, they talk about the reputation of Tesco or Waitrose. Most charities have little in common with most of the sector because it is such a large sector.  You have to look at individual charities, in the communities in which they operate.

“You have some very significant charities that are very good at managing their reputation and you have some that aren’t so good, and it seems to me unfortunate that the Charity Commission has this statutory duty to increase trust because it will be impossible to achieve.

“The idea of having some campaign for something as nebulous as the ‘world of charity’ which is so diverse, seems to me to be barmy and it seems to me strange that you’ve got this statutory duty.”

Saxton: grading system needed

Albury was commenting after a panel debate (pictured) about public trust and confidence in charities, during which nfpSynergy’s Joe Saxton said the sector needed a proper strategy for building trust.

Saxton raised the spectre of a simple grading system for charities’ fundraising and admin costs, saying that one of the ‘pinch points’ that needs to be tackled is how much of the money given to charities goes to where it’s needed.

“I’m not saying that how much you spend on fundraising and admin is the be-all and end-all, but we do know it’s what worries the public,” he said.

“I think the ability to have some kind of mechanism where people instantly and easily know exactly what amount of the income charities are getting is going to charitable activities would be hugely helpful.  That might be a traffic light system, or some other easy method that helps somebody understand in 15 seconds how much of their money goes to where it’s needed.”

Costs 'too easy to manipulate'

However, Sightsavers International CEO Dr Caroline Harper admitted to being “very nervous” about the prospect of trying to rate charities in this way.

“The question of what ‘getting to the beneficiary’ actually means is a difficult one,” she said. “And it’s very easy to change what you allocate to ‘support costs’ and then it becomes very difficult to compare one organisation with another in a fair manner. I know people can manipulate those numbers.”

Asked by civilsociety.co.uk whether the Charity Commission itself had made any progress on devising any sort of admin cost index, as mooted by its former chair Dame Suzi Leather last year, chief executive Sam Younger conceded it had not.

“It’s a very difficult issue to grapple with,” he said.   

But he added that Lord Hodgson’s recent review of the Charities Act suggesting a traffic light system to rate risk factors was a similar sort of idea and “something we will continue to discuss”.

Dan Corry, chief executive of New Philanthropy Capital, suggested that the Charity Commission could simply make charities declare whether they carry out an impact assessment or not, and if they don’t, then should make them explain why.

This article was taken from www.civilsociety.co.uk – http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/governance/news/content/13461