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Charity isn’t ‘gentle’ - it’s messy, hard, difficult and painful

Tue 14 Apr 2020

Blog by Caron Bradshaw for Charity Finance Group

Four weeks ago we started lobbying the Government for the help that only it can provide at the scale the sector needs to ensure that the most vulnerable in society are not left to shoulder the greatest burden in this crisis. Yesterday Rishi Sunak announced an unprecedented, grant-based, injection of cash into the sector. I was asked immediately for my reaction; was I pleased or disappointed? For me, the answer is not binary and I have wrestled with it all night.

I hope this blog will make sense of my thoughts.

I am delighted with what has been given. I am disappointed at what has not. I am frustrated that many of the fundamental points have been missed. I’m angry that we have been made to jump through hoops to show why charity should be supported when the same has not been asked of business. I am disheartened by the lack of joined up thinking. I am relieved for those for whom this is the lifeline they needed so desperately. I am a pragmatist and I know how politics works. I am far from able to give a simple response for how I ‘feel’.

For me, the last four weeks have simultaneously highlighted everything that is good and bad about charity and its relationship with Government, with the other sectors and with the public.

Firstly the good; the rich patchwork of organisations and individual endeavour rose to the challenges thrown up by Covid19. Communities rallied together to support each other. Huge numbers responded to the NHS’s cry for volunteers. The public in its most financially uncertain times thrust its hands deep in its pockets and gave millions of pounds to the National Emergency Trust (and many other calls for support). Celebrities and those of independent wealth gave and Foundations got their tone just right. Politicians of all parties came together across divides in order to support the work done by social change organisations. And the PM, Leader of the House and Chancellor all applauded the vital work undertaken by our sector as part of what makes Britain great. Fantastic.

Undoubtedly for those who will benefit from the funds announced yesterday this money is most welcome. For the Hospice movement that secured £200m support over the 12 weeks, I am delighted. For the small charities who can access the grants, whether through their local authority, community foundation or the National Lottery Community Fund I sigh in relief that they will be in a better place than before. All of that makes me glad and extremely grateful.

So the bad; There is a persistent central error when we speak of ‘the sector’ - as if it is a movement which has homogenous needs, operations, good bits and flaws. A sector that acts and reacts in a single way to every situation. But it does not. There is no single product like an airline, or single business model like a pub. The only thing that ties this many and varied landscape of organisations together, from the very small to the mammoth, is the desire to change the world positively. Charity encompasses the tiny and entirely voluntary to the largest and most business-like of operations and everything in between. There is no single business model. There is no single product or service.

To read the full blog click here.