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  • Writer's pictureR2D2

.....those bad charity headlines, or should that be bad headlines about charities? IDK, WDK 🤷

We used to subscribe to Third Sector when we had a little more unrestricted cash in the charity tin to service useful subs like this one, but in the end when you are quite literally counting the pennies and pounds coming in and out and worrying endlessly about cashflow / what's happened to the cashflow.... you do what most responsible orgs do and that is cease unnecessary expenditure and concentrate on using what you have to deliver what you're chartered to do. Not a difficult concept to get your head around.

What we do know is that during the height of the pandemic, we were late by a week with a set of statutory accounts and were fined but given a pass due to the circumstances affecting the country, indeed the whole world. We were grateful the fine was waived. It would have just been money down the drain. And some of it would have been money donated to us being channeled down the proverbial drain. We learned a sobering lesson about not making that mistake ever again.

What's the point of this blog you might be asking yourselves? Well, look at one of those headlines in the random screen shot taken above from one of the many circulars we still receive as a registered but non-subscribed member of Third Sector. It's a typical set of headlines; success stories and then features on organisations not fulfilling either basic regulatory compliance and getting away with it for months (sometimes years) and then look back at our recent experience of being told off and then excused due to global mitigating circumstances.

It's not fair. How can organisations get away with this kind of behaviour? Why does it take so long for the regulatory bodies to step in? How can medium to large organisations avoid compliances that all of us in this stressed out yet vital sector need to work within? Auditors and accountants work with organisations to produce statutory accounts to evidence the financial probity (or otherwise) of their clients. Yet we guarantee that if you subscribe to Third Sector for example, daily or weekly digests of news will inevitably present these types of headlines.

To this day we remain baffled as to how charitable organisations that must be registered with HMRC and the Charity Commission can operate despite failing to comply on more than one occasion when little-old-us get knuckles rapped on the one and only occasion we take eyes off the ball? We can imagine how tough a job it must be for any regulatory body to police its membership, but there is nothing new going on here, just the same old bad charity headlines and bad headlines about charities. Okay, so we've had a moan, how should these flagrant disregards for compliance be dealt with?

We'd suggest they are dealt with firmly and decisively and consistently! Not rocket science.

The other headline worth noting is the 'bureaucratic nightmare as charities fight for grants'. Firstly, we have all but given up on spending time and what little funding we have to pay for our time in researching and writing and producing evidence for small amounts of money that will in the end allow us only to fulfil a small project or an idea. Big funders don't want to know that we are dreaming of a better world, a more musically expressive world, a world where all children and young people can try a new instrument, get a taste for music making or using music tech - and if they do, then they are not looking hard enough at what people like us are doing in our daily grind to make life better for those we serve.

Maybe we're just terrible fundraisers (harsh but true), maybe we just don't have a compelling 'brand' (brand, meh, corporatisation of charity) or celebrity support(s). We're just trying to get on with making our world and our particular place in this world a happier and more productive place. We've had the support of very few funders over the last 4 years, but one of those is the Kent Community Foundation and yes, grants have been small'ish, but they have listened, asked us questions, engaged with us and it has been a positive experience for us. One we hope we can build on. But as for the others, the larger funders, filling out their endless sheets and boxes wanting to know the plainly obvious:

  • Why - err, we don't need to go too far to know why

  • how do you know why - err see above

  • how much - really? How about allowing us to present a realistic outlook, cost of living, inflation

  • how many - as many who present need (and funds with the elasticity to meet those fluctuations in need)

The simple truth for a small outfit like us is that the best way we can do what we do well is to be given the freedom and funds to facilitate that freedom to get on with it, train more like us to get on with it, to get on with creating as many opportunities for the young to experience the joy of music making without the judgment and the costs. And, all the while, delivering to meet our objects and responsibility to our regulatory bodies, our supporters and beneficiaries.

Oh well, that's a hump-day +1 rant out of the system!

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