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Lord Hodgson laments 'too many moribund charities'

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts
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Lord Hodgson laments 'too many moribund charities' 6

Governance | Tania Mason | 9 Nov 2012

There are too many “moribund charities” in the UK that have outlived their usefulness and should recycle their assets to new, modern purposes, according to Charities Act reviewer Lord Hodgson.

In his address to the Newton Charity Investment Conference yesterday, Lord Hodgson said that one of the principles he followed when conducting his review of the Charities Act is that charitable status is a privilege, not a right.

“Charities have a lifecycle, and too often this lifecycle is not recognised,” he said.

He said that anyone can do worthwhile voluntary work “but once I want to get a charity number, my relationship with society changes.

"A charity number means I have the wraparound of the brand, it makes it easier for me to get gift aid and grants.  So I have to give something back to society.  But we have quite a lot of evidence of moribund or semi-moribund charities who really ought to be recycling their assets to new purposes more in keeping with modern society.”

When answering questions later, he returned to the problem of moribund charities as he mused on how to attract younger trustees into the sector.  He suggested that the arcane and old-fashioned habits of the trustee boards of such charities meant that younger people couldn’t join even if they wanted.

“The classic moribund charity is northern town, half a million in assets, four trustees all over 65 and all white, headed by the retired partner of the firm of solicitors, meeting four times a year at lunchtime at the golf club.

“And they wonder why no one will join them. People who work, younger people, can’t get to the golf club at lunchtime. And they don’t want to spend three or four hours discussing matters arising.  

“So it’s not that they stop people joining them, but the way they run themselves repels others except people like themselves.”

Ben Wittenberg
DSC
12 Nov 2012

What a load of rubbish, good job he's not in charge of reviewing the Charities Act and making recommendations to government based on similarly unfounded and sweeping generalisations....oh hang on...

Chris Lee
11 Nov 2012

Reminds me of a speaker at a charity fundraising conference a decade ago who said 'I think some charities should be allowed to shrivel up and die'.

Having got the audience's attention, he went on to suggest that this could liberate all the goodwill and energy put into organisations that don't make a real difference into those that do!

I think you can pretty much do what you want when spending your own money, but not when you're spending someone else's.

Michael Levitt
9 Nov 2012

The way in which Lord Hodgson is reported to have spoken about typical charities is offensive, and I would like to know the basis for his comments. During 5 years of review visits to northern charities as an employee of the Charity Commission I never once came across the caricature of a northern charity he describes. In fact if I were to engage in caricaturing charities in northern towns, which is a dangerous thing to do, I would say a typical one has working people of all classes and ages and is doing real grinding work at the rough end of society. And by the way, Lord Hodgson, they are doing it for nothing and would be disgusted at the suggestion of being paid.

In addition, talk of privilege of being a registered charity is spin to make an argument for change of the type Lord Hodgson has spoken of in recent months. The reality is that if you set up an organisation whose aims are charitable you have to register unless the law allows for an exemption or exception, but that does not mean you are not a charity. Although many people do see the registration number as a badge of honour, it represents nothing more than an entry on a register, as the Charity Commission has always pointed out. It does not confer any status or privileges. And it is not the duty of the state to interfere and tell charities - which may well be past their useful lives, to wind up. This is dangerous territory indeed.

Anon
9 Nov 2012

I speak to CEOs,' finance and fundraisers directors everyday from charities large and small.

Sometimes I speak to charities who say that their trustees have been with them for over 10 years and that they haven't had any changes to the board in years. Surely this is not healthy.

There are also a number of seperate charities who have been established for a number of years all working for the same beneficiaries and all fighting for the same funds,(where geographic criteria is not an issue) with no clear indicators that the charity's long term goals and objectives are any nearer to being achieved.

You would be surprised at the narrow minded attitude I come across and an inability to even engage with new technology . How these charitiies are operating in these challenging times is beyond me.

Barb
9 Nov 2012

Plenty of truth about truseeship. And how many charities have never recruited since the beginning! It's all about ill-understood leadership which reads 'my way or highway'. No wonder these boards get detached from what happens in the outside world. Let trustees to be employees in their own charities and you'll see how the sector will develop, the speed of light is nothing in comparison.

Michael Levitt
9 Nov 2012
Response to [Barb]

Oh they'll develop alright; into businesses with concern only for their bottom line and no compassion for the beneficiary.

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