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.”