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Data protection not data prevention

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September 21, 2012 at 12:30

Earlier this week the UK Parliament’s Justice Select Committee held its first evidence session on the EU Data Protection Framework Proposals. Whilst they were concerned predominantly with the logistics and technicalities in the Information Commissioner’s report, I am concerned that further regulation in the area of data protection, drawn up without consideration of the structure or activities of charities will prove unduly restrictive for many organisations. The new proposals build on the EU’s existing body of law around privacy rights and include the contentious “right to be forgotten”. The aim is noble; to allow individuals to control the information that […]

Being charitable by what you spend, not by what you save

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September 4, 2012 at 10:59

Being charitable by what you spend, not by what you save Becoming a trustee of an endowed charitable foundation could appear intimidating to anyone that doesn’t have investment and finance expertise. In addition to general trustee duties, the ‘endowment’ aspect often cloaks the role in an air of mystery, complexity and technicality, where the focus is more on the performance of assets than charitable mission. However, a recent report by ACF ‘The governance and financial management of endowed foundations’, is a helpful reminder of the benefits of going ‘back to basics’ and keeping a clear focus on what the foundation […]

Another zero rate bites the dust…

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August 29, 2012 at 16:08

With fewer distractions now the Olympics have finished, we’ve been reflecting on the charity finance-related policy developments of the year so far – many of which were introduced or reiterated in March’s budget.  The rather unpopular budget finally limped onto the statute book last month, following a number of u-turns and minus any reference to the ‘charity tax’ following widespread objections from the sector. One area where lobbying efforts were much less successful, however, was on the Government’s proposal to remove the VAT zero-rating for alterations to listed buildings.  The measure will result in significant additional costs to charities owning […]

Reviewing the reviews: charity law, regulation and red tape

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August 10, 2012 at 15:27

Charity law and regulation and its implementation, not normally issues to excite the sector, have been given unusual prominence lately and are certainly keeping those with an eye on charity policy busy this summer. Last month we had both the publication of Lord Hodgson’s much anticipated independent review of the 2006 Charities Act and the closure of the Charity Commission’s consultation on the charity register. Our civil society minister, Nick Hurd MP, has written to sector leaders seeking input to the Government response to the Hodgson review, submissions for the Civil Society Red Tape Challenge are due in September and […]

Gift Aid without the paperwork… worth the risk!

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August 10, 2012 at 14:59

My edition of the textbook, ‘What Works’, has gathered a convincing layer of dust of late.  With a title reference to rhetoric on ‘evidence-based policy’, once a critical companion to my studies, the book now has a feeling of an old relic from the past.   Looking at recent proposals, many in the charity sector have asked whether we have lost something in terms of attempting to frame policy decisions within a sound evidence base.  It may sometimes be rhetoric, but surely it helps focus decisions on ‘what works’. Clear policy objectives and direction are difficult to identify among an untidy […]

Going global with charity reporting

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August 3, 2012 at 15:40

  Last month a CFG symposium, hosted by MHA MacIntyre Hudson, brought leading figures together to discuss whether there should be an international reporting standard for not-for-profit (NFP) organisations. Representatives from the international charity sector, including Oxfam and the British Red Cross, joined accounting bodies and standard setters hoping to pin down some of the growing number of ideas for greater commonality in not-for-profit reporting at an international level.  Acronyms aside (and there were many!), it proved to be a highly thought-provoking and constructive discussion. Currently, international accounting standards exist for both business and public sector and apply in most developed countries, […]

Banking reform shouldn’t put charities at risk

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July 13, 2012 at 14:15

Apart from the respite provided by expense-fiddling MPs and phone hacking journalists, banks have dominated the headlines as the UK’s biggest villains for the past few years.  Even now they’re back in the news for the wrong reasons. While individuals’ heads have rolled, since 2008 the Government has been under huge pressure to do more – to detoxify the banks and make our banking system safer and more stable.  In June, following recommendations from the Independent Commission on Banking, the Government laid out its plans for fundamental change in its banking reform white paper. Unfortunately, lurking in the white paper […]

Easing the pension burden on charities, just slightly…

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June 15, 2012 at 11:59

Having gone through one or more tough pension valuations in the last few years, many charities have put their schemes on a financially stronger footing by reducing benefits, higher contributions, long term recovery plans and the pledging of assets. Those facing a valuation in the last 12 months or in the near future could be forgiven for being disheartened for the deficit stubbornly refusing to reduce. The primary cause is nothing to do with investments as most asset classes have delivered some impressive performance over the last few years. Instead it is the valuation of the liabilities, which are based […]

Charity fraud – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

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June 8, 2012 at 13:12

Last week we launched our Charity Fraud guide, along with the Fraud Advisory Panel’s (FAP) Safer Giving guidance for donors, at a special breakfast seminar event.  We easily secured the first three speakers, from the FAP, National Fraud Authority (NFA) and Charity Commission, however the fourth speaker – a charity who had experienced fraud and was willing to talk about it – proved somewhat more difficult to find.  Few suitable names sprung to mind and even fewer that we thought might be willing to stand up and share their story.  Just organising the fraud event was indicative of the challenges […]

Foot-shooting policy making

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May 14, 2012 at 15:30

The tax relief cap policy is the latest example of charities (and their beneficiaries) suffering disproportionately as a consequence of badly thought through policies – in other words charity and our civil society being an after-thought and not the first thought. Decisions are being made as a result of simplistic politically charged arguments, without considering the wider picture – in a time where society needs it most, fostering a strong civil society has become the last thought.   This is essentially an example of poor policy making, and poor policy making often has damaging results.  In the example of the tax relief cap […]