Market forces have “failed when it comes to the distribution of charitable activity” across the UK, the chief executive of NPC said this morning.
Delivering the opening speech of this year’s NPC Ignites conference in London this morning, Dan Corry, chief executive of NPC, said that worse-off areas of the UK tend to have fewer charities, receive less funding from grantmakers and government and, as a result, have been “failed” by market forces.
Pointing to data from the Office of National Statistics, Corry said that charity funding from locals government has nearly halved since 2010/2011, which he said has “hit poorer areas harder”.
He also said he wasn’t “holding my breath” that the Charity Tax Commission which is looking into charitable tax breaks would have positive news.
“I am not holding my breath that they find themselves [tax breaks] going mainly to the places, people, causes and charities that need them most,” he said.
Using London as an example, Corry said that in general outer London boroughs have “far lower charity density than inner London ones – despite having many needs”. He said this was symptomatic of the problem across all the major regions of the UK.
“If we take registered charities, mainly as the data is easier than including the non-registered, and try to look at those who mainly work locally, we find that the number of charities per 1,000 of the population varies a lot.
“While it is over 2 in the South East, South West and East of England, it is below 1.5 in the North East, North West, and only a bit above in Yorkshire and the Humber and in the West Midlands.
“Broadly speaking, while the pattern is not totally straightforward, the charity density is higher in the more prosperous regions.”
‘Passion trumps efficiency’ in sector
In his speech Corry was critical of the lack of benchmarking and collaboration in the charity sector saying that often “passion trumps efficiency” and blinds charity workers to what their organisation is achieving.
“Passion trumps efficiency – sometimes the love of the organisation completely distracts from the idea of social impact.
“Sometimes the passion makes us believe we are achieving when the evidence is much less clear. And focusing down on achieving impact in cost effective ways can be a hard – if rewarding - slog.”
He also said that venture philanthropy “does not really work in my view” as “risk aversion dominates” at board and senior level in the charity sector.
‘Stop the endless discussions’
To address this issue, Corry said that charity regulation should be changed to force “people and boards” to report “their social impact and how to improve it”. He also called for “high class monitoring” of what goes on in the sector; building “better working relationships” with the public sector and local authorities and a stronger focus on “place based work”.
“Yes, all this stuff is a bit abstract currently,” he said. “We all have responsibilities which go beyond our reponsibility to our own individual organisation: each one of us needs to look up and reach out.”
Corry also reiterated his calls for the creation of a Civil Society Improvement Agency, which he described as “a sector led organisation, but not a membership one, joint funded by government” that could act as “a clearing house, an instigator; a depository of knowledge and an advocate for change”.
He said the Charity Commission should focus on regulation "in contrast to what the recent Charity Commission strategy pushes towards" leaving the new agency to focus on supporting the sector.
In conclusion, Corry called on the sector to “stop the endless discussions that reverberate only within our sector and work with all kinds of different organisations to achieve change,” in the interests of beneficiaries.