Archive for the ‘Charitable Purposes’ Category

Political Posturing is Not a Charities Job

The organisations listed below or their representatives have collaborated or even colluded in ‘Brexit politics’ at a sensitive time. They jointly signed a letter published in the Daily Telegraph on 31st December 2018 copy below.

Campaigning charities have the right or even obligation to speak out but only after due consideration. Such a considered policy needs to have full approval within the organisation and logically should relate to current circumstance  rather than matters that are still uncertain. Members of charitable organisations and donors have the right to expect balanced views from their charity or risk alienation of a significant proportion of the stakeholders. This particular letter is emotive and the conclusions drawn are by no means certain.

The Signatories

Mike Clarke RSPB     Stephanie Hilborne The Wildlife Trusts   Beccy Speight Woodland Trust     Shaun Spiers Green Alliance     Crispin Truman Campaign to Protect Rural England    John Sauven Greenpeace   Martin Spray Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust   Craig Bennett Friends of the Earth   James Thornton ClientEarth   Sandy Luk Marine Conservation Society   Nick Mabey E3G    Dr Michael Warhurst CHEM Trust   Helen Browning  Soil Association

SIR – No one who loves Britain’s beautiful countryside, or cares about our environment more generally, should be in any doubt about the disastrous impact of a no-deal Brexit.

We can expect traffic chaos, with the garden of England turning into the lorry park of England. Dangerous chemicals will go unmonitored. Farmers will face huge uncertainty, with high tariffs on exports and livestock stuck at borders. And we will immediately lose the institutions that have ensured cleaner rivers and beaches, and safeguarded important habitats for wildlife.

The Government has promised a “green Brexit”. That depends on continued cooperation with the EU and a mutual commitment to the highest environmental standards. No deal is not an option for a greener UK. (Our highlights)

Opinion and Action

  • I will not renew my membership of some of these organisations
  • I am actively reviewing my support for the other causes signed up to this letter. Those who emphasis ‘doing’ good will be favoured over those who talk an ill timed fight.
  • I will continue to advocate that charities avoid controversial involvement in politics even when I am sympathetic to the underlying issues.

A Dickens of a Going on at The Retailers Charity

FASHION & TEXTILE CHILDREN’S TRUST 257136

In the 19th century when Charles Dickens was chairman this charity was called the ‘Warehousemen & Clerk’s School’ subsequently renamed Purley Children’s Trust, The Textile Industry’s  Children’s Trust and now glorying under the current name and focus. It helps the children of folk who have worked for more than a year in clothing retail, clothing manufacture, laundry or fashion.

Even today these sectors seldom offer secure, well paid jobs. In the UK the demise of so many retail outlets and foreign clothes imports has added to the stress such a charity may feel on behalf of their ‘clients’. Indeed they have helped 547 children at a cost of £198,184 this year but currently report on the website ‘…just a quick note to say we know we’ve been a bit quiet on this front recently. We’ve had a few comings and goings over the last few months, so things have been a bit up in the air!   ..’

I wanted a charity in this space where I could be positive and able to help as I can envisage a significant need. Large corporate mismanagement, high street closures, pension and redundancy problems must be depressing for staff in these areas. After looking through their reports and accounts  I have a couple of issues.

  • They have £8,950,000 pounds in reserves potentially built up over many decades of prudent even parsimonious policies and a school sale. At current levels of new grant  money already in the bank could cover 30 years further grants.
  • Have the charity added ‘Fashion’ to be in the fashion of broadening their remit to attract more requests from grantees? Is there an inclination to add to the core charitable remit rather than excelling on the real job to be done.
  • Salary costs are conservative but the ‘cost of raising funds’ at £95k is too high when only £36k is raised from donations and trading. The main 95% of  income comes from historic investment income. Hence there is little or no incentive for new donors to become involved.
  • The 600+ year old Drapers Company 251403 makes grants in similar areas including Education and Young People , Social Welfare and Textiles and Heritage with it’s £65m funds. Despite a higher income, reserves and profile I am still not sure they do a better job.

Protection of Birds?

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)  207076 should try to do what it says on the tin i.e. protect birds. How far they sometimes go in this endeavour is a matter of opinion. Sir Ian Botham an advocate for ‘You Forgot the Birds’ a network designed to monitor conservation charities  questions  the RSPB on many issues.
  • Do the RSPB ‘milk it’ when a golden eagle goes missing for a month? Or when a hen harrier thought to have been hunted illegally is seen 10 months later.
  • Is the RSPB spending  more on soft conservation than bird habitat or creating conditions for birds to flourish.
  • University research in 2017 claims ‘grouse moors are not the ecological deserts some campaigners claim but are teeming with endangered birds.’
  • It takes courage to manage nature and that involves controlling predators.

How is the RSPB Doing Financially

The reports and accounts for 2016/17 have just been published

  • The treasurer reports income of £140 million costing £36.1 to raise leaving a surplus ‘to spend on saving nature’.
  • There is a £90m black hole pension liability provided in the accounts so financial reserves are depleted. There is £196m tied up in nature reserves.
  • The one and a quarter million members donated £86m through subscriptions and legacies  nearly two thirds of all income.

Concerns

  • The national support and goodwill towards ‘birds’ and the charity should not be abused.
  • There is an undercurrent surrounding the charity that causes concern in some quarters.
  • The detailed accounts are worth more thorough examination when they are submitted to the charity commission.

Nesta a Business or Charity

The National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts NESTA was a public body designed to promote creativity, talent and innovation across a wide spectrum of areas and interests. In 1998 it received an endowment from the national lottery and has benefited from various government support.  An investigation and report in 2010 concluded ‘that, while NESTA provided a valuable role, it did not need to be a public body and that its activities were better suited to the voluntary sector’. This led to NESTA becoming an independent charity in 2012 when it changed its name to Nesta with gifted assets of £343m.

In summary the main object and purpose of the charity is  to advance education, and in particular the study of innovation by the promotion of research and the publication of the useful results. By working to improve the conditions in which great ideas can flourish – addressing the policy and structural conditions that can either energise or stifle creativity.

Key Items from 2016 Report & Accounts

  • Assets and funds carried forward from March 2016 were £384m with less than 7% held in ‘mixed motive early stage companies.
  • A significant proportion of investments are in overseas quoted companies and showed a loss in the year. ‘In 2016 global equities generated a loss of £10.2 million, compared to a gain in 2015 of £25.1m.’
  • Income from investments and endowment fund was £1,956,000 but investment management costs of £1,257,000 wiped most of this out.
  • Staff levels have increased by 75% in four years to 167 full time equivalents with 27 of those earning over £60,000 pa.
  • The Nesta trust which holds the endowment fund has a Protector appointed by Government to oversee the administration of the Trust – with a principal trustee being Nesta. Additionally Nesta has 9 committees and 10 trustees running a complex operation.
  • Grants of £2,126,000 were made to 120 organisations during 2015/16 including charities and public bodies  compared to £12,288,000 in the prior year.

Concerns and Issues

Nesta is well recognised in the business fraternity and shares some wider business ethics and aspirations to good effect. It is less known as a charity.

The endowment has been protected in scale if not in real terms but is it time to set a date for the ultimate use and expiry of the trust fund.

In the same way that NESTA did not need to continue as a public body should all or part of Nesta become a commercial and financial business.

The reduction in the value of grant awards seems logical and could go further to avoid none productive costs being incurred both by Nesta and the recipients.

Is the existence within Nesta too comfortable and in danger of drifting from the core purpose and intent. How do this and similar charities retain focus.

Costs of holding investment reserves, growth of staff levels and control of outsourced charitable work need to be kept under review.

The 2017 reports and accounts are awaited with interest. Detail of the numerous schemes, ventures and investments may then be worth further comment