Tuesday, 19 October 2010

UK charities: a house of cards

Stick twist or hold

Tomorrow’s Comprehensive Spending Review (read ‘cuts’) are predicted to take up to five billion pounds out of the charitable sector in England – and that is just over the next eighteen months. So warns Iona Joy, head of the think-tank New Philanthropy Capital.
She points out that it is important for charities to plan carefully for different financial scenarios, as those able to show funders thorough financial plans would be able to convince funders that they are at less risk of going bust –

Charities will need to explain to funders what they need, and these things can be complex and not very exciting. They should prepare their case carefully and explain what will happen if they don’t get the funding but also the impact of the funds if their activities do continue.

Much English Conductive Education is provided by small to medium charities.

Games theory

Craig Dearden-Phillips offers a longer-term, more analytic perspective, drawing analogy from a game of cards –

[Trustee boards] will face the same three choices: do they twist, stick or fold? To twist means to take another card - a gamble that could take us to safety or tumble us off the cliff. To stick means doing the same things and sticking to the routine, hoping this will be enough. And to fold means we call it a day - or get taken over.
As a social entrepreneur, my hope is that boards decide to twist rather than stick. My fear, though, is that most will stick, more fearful of the consequences of a punt gone wrong than the less conspicuous risks of carrying on with business as usual. In many of these situations, fear often trumps hope.
But when we're deciding to twist or stick, we need to think about the kind of long-term future we're heading for - and what this means for our organisations....
What has this got to do with us, this autumn...?
First, in the medium and long-term, there is definitely going to be more space for us. We have long passed what one commentator calls 'peak state', that high historic watermark of state expenditure. Second, there is a bigger role in helping citizens, particularly the most vulnerable, to navigate this new world of bring-and-buy. Third, there will be opportunities to provide new services as the economy improves.
So whether you twist, stick or fold, your one duty as a chief executive or trustee, when the spending review wave hits, is this: climb the mast, look into the distance and assess whether you can successfully steer to calmer waters. Because however bad this week might seem, everything passes - and clearer, calmer days will return.


Some English Conductive Education charities draw many directly from the state, in the forms, say, as grants or through ‘statementing’. Others receive not a penny. No matter, it seems inconceivable that there will be any, however funded, that do not suffer deleterious effects from what happens tomorrow. The nest twelve to eighteen months will be exceedingly hard and there seems no reason to anticipate the same process of social Darwinism as is predicted for the rest of the charitable sector.

And then, not just something leaner and meaner, but something different too.

Something better? Ah, that we shall have to see.

A lecture on this topic

December 2008:


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