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Budget 2015 – Missed opportunities and targeted giveaways

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March 18, 2015 at 14:56

The Chancellor has sat down, the media are pouring over the budget documents looking for stories to come out of the figures, but what has been the impact of the Budget for charities? A slight easing of austerity Looking at the overall picture, it seems clear that the impact of austerity is not going be significantly reduced at the start of the next Parliament, but will be a lot lighter towards the end. Ignoring the effect of inflation, this Budget has seen an easing of the cuts. In 2016-17, the Budget implies that the amount available to spend for departments [...]

#volsecbudget – What should charities look out for?

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March 17, 2015 at 10:51

Tomorrow will mark the last Budget of this Parliament, and already a great deal has been trailed in the media from inheritance tax cuts to raising the personal allowance. Charity Finance Group coordinated a letter with other sector bodies at the start of the month to ask the Chancellor to tackle a number of issues such as Gift Aid, Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme, VAT and capacity building for the sector. But what should charities be looking out for tomorrow when the Mr Osborne stands up at 12.30 after PMQs? Here are a few things that we think may interest [...]

Can charities help end the ‘pushmi-pullyu’ of local government spending to support prevention?

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March 16, 2015 at 09:14

The recent Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on ‘The cost of the cuts: the impact on local government and poorer communities’ makes for fascinating reading. There is a lot of analysis and statistics on how the frontloading of government spending cuts on local government have hit services and communities, as well as the voluntary sector. While there are a number of worrying issues highlighted by this report, from the point of the view of charities and the sector’s finances, the most worrying was the squeeze on spending on preventative services and the lack of capacity of local authorities to undertake full [...]

Capacity building – a dividing line in 2015?

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March 10, 2015 at 10:16

Last week’s election hustings at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Civil Society and Volunteering generated a number of news articles. I attended the hustings, which were certainly lively and prompted a great deal of discussion and debate afterwards. There was the usual back and forth over the Lobbying Act and exchanges over Eric Pickles statement on grants to charities not being used for lobbying. However, the most interesting section (for me) was the on capacity building for the sector, and I think it revealed a subtle divide between the Conservatives and Labour positions.* When asked about capacity building the [...]

Caron’s comment: can profit and social change mix?

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March 9, 2015 at 15:57

I recently attended an interesting seminar on social ventures. The presenters argued that the legal construct of a venture should be irrelevant, and that it was the organisation’s ability to bring about social change that mattered. Time constraints prevented a detailed exploration of some of these fascinating avenues, so I’ve been reflecting on them ever since. The one that particularly stuck with me was the statement that if you can get corporates’ strength focused on social good, they are “arguably the best vehicle for social change because of their often plentiful resources and their ability to innovate”. Businesses as a [...]

Pressure on charity campaigning is not going to go away

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February 27, 2015 at 11:18

This week Weber Shandwick held a debate on the future of charity campaigning which saw a panel of eminent speakers* discuss the Lobbying Act and other issues in the run up to the election. As reported by the sector press, the debate was intense and the vast majority of charities in the room believed that the sector was coming under undue pressure from politicians and regulators. However, on the back of this debate, I think there is a simple truth that charities need to take on board in the run up to the election: politicians are jealous of the influence [...]

Measurement: A double-edged sword for social value

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February 16, 2015 at 09:52

We’re all positivists now. Although there are a few ‘heretics’, generally, it seems that the march of the measurers has been a successful one. Nearly every charity that I speak with is interested in measurement and finding ways to report on its impact, though most are held back by the lack of time, resources or experience. Overall, this is a step forward. But we should also be cautious. Measurement is inherently idiosyncratic given the diversity of the sector and vast range of different outcomes that they are trying to achieve. This is not merely diversity by issue, but also diversity [...]

Data is nothing without context

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February 9, 2015 at 17:34

In my final column of 2014, I predicted transparency would be a continuing topic this year, and so it is proving. You’ll find quite a bit on the subject in this month’s Finance Focus, some of it related to a report published only a few days into the new year by the right-leaning think tank the Centre for Policy Studies. I’m not going to suggest you read the report because the tone and nature of it is likely to raise your blood pressure – I know it had that effect on me. However, there is a danger that such ill-informed [...]

Fog of uncertainty makes post-election planning difficult for charities

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February 4, 2015 at 14:20

Today the Institute for Fiscal Studies unveiled its Green Budget 2015. The Green Budget is an attempt by the IFS to analyse the impact of spending cuts, tax rises and other policy decisions of the government and parties. It is well worth of a read (though perhaps not all 300 pages of it!), but I think that there are three key messages for charities. 1)  Government spending with charities is likely to be squeezed by more than we think There has been a lot written about the impact of government spending cuts on the sector over the past few years, and [...]

Audits, thresholds and transparency

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January 30, 2015 at 11:34

Last week, the Cabinet Office consultation on the future of the audit threshold for charities concluded. Charity Finance Group, in partnership with NCVO, responded to the consultation on behalf of members. Audits are an important part of the regulatory landscape for charities, and the government has proposed lifting the threshold for which charities have to have their accounts audited from £500,000 to £1m. We have supported this move, in line with responses from members to a previous consultation which proposed lifting the audit threshold. For many small and medium sized charities, audit costs can be significant and may not be [...]