Charities need to be nothing other than more ‘charity like’.
As I sit in a McDonalds drowned in ‘half term’ noise, I reflect on a conversation this morning where I was sharing a story about how I think it’s detrimental to the cause when people both in and outside of our sector are saying ‘you need to be more business like’.
I’m a proud Chief Executive of a flippin’ amazing charity that exists to support others to 'do good' in Bolton. We were established as a charity in 1991 when I was still in nappies (or more honestly a first year at a comprehensive in Accrington). Since then, there’s been two changes to the governing documents of the organisation; one was around our name and the other was around our governance roles. The critical thing is that whenever those types of changes are made, we’ve gone to the charity commission to update our information, because we are a charity.
As an organisation, we are built on our charitable purpose and not our business objectives. We don’t do business, we do charity. We have an annual operational plan and we remind ourselves and our stakeholders of our purpose whenever and wherever we can. Our offer to the local voluntary and community sector and wider community is clear and our charitable purpose is our ‘raison d'être’.
It’s important for me to remind you that businesses can be socially minded and make a positive difference with positive activities, policies, fundraising and philanthropy. It's recognised that Social Value does add something positive to those businesses who embrace it, mainstream it and use it to make a difference to people and communities. However regardless of all that, we must remain honest about the fact that business is about selling goods and making profit. Business is fundamentally about people making money.
Individually and collectively as a sector, we really have to watch and check ourselves around the ‘creep’ of the commoditisation of people and the issues that impact their lives. Whether inequality, hate, poverty, wellbeing or loneliness; they’re not for purchase and should never be for profit. These elements of people’s lives can’t be solved with money alone. Money’s an enabler to make change, but you can’t commission love and compassion!
This is a plea to charity leaders to be confident in what you do and to be proud of running charities. We can be professional, we can be commercially aware, we can be savvy, we can ‘mean’ our values and we can be effective; all of which are characteristics of good charity management and well run organisations.
It’s time we truly took action and made a statement.
Charities don’t need to be more business-like. Charities need to have confidence and conviction in being more ‘charity like’!