As political life starts to get back to some kind of normality following the pandemic, attention is starting to turn to what the post-Brexit domestic agenda might look like. The Conservatives made much of their promise to ‘level up’ the country in their election manifesto in 2019.
Following the establishment of a levelling up taskforce last year, CAF and CIoF were really keen to put our heads together and to share some ideas with NCVO who led a sector-report to Neil O’Brien MP on how charities can contribute to the agenda and the particular role giving and fundraising could play.
At the heart of levelling up (as far as we can see right now) is a promise to reduce regional disparities. In order to do that it is vital to identify and address inequalities; whether that is in life chances, skills and careers, wellbeing, or public services (among many other things). This is what so many charities have been doing for years – helping to reduce the problems in local areas and finding ways to unleash their potential.
So if the government’s levelling up agenda is to succeed it is vital that they find ways of working with, supporting, and enabling charities to make a difference locally rather than falling into the trap of parachuting in central solutions that are often doomed to fail.
How giving and fundraising inspire communities
A key opportunity for government and charities to align around the levelling up agenda is by looking at how philanthropic giving and charitable fundraising can inspire communities and individuals to come together to make a difference to their local area.
This can generate funds that can be used to renew and improve local areas, provide better services, and address the inequalities that we see between regions. As the levelling up agenda turns from a vision into a concrete policy programme, we want to see initiatives and ideas running through it which recognise and seek to harness the potential of philanthropy and fundraising.
As well as raising funds that will enable civil society organisations to deliver more in different regions, embedding fundraising and giving as a pillar of levelling up can stimulate partnerships and collaboration within and between sectors; encouraging local networks and initiatives to come together.
Importantly, it also can lead local communities to have greater feelings of shared ownership, participation, and responsibility; as involvement in fundraising and giving can help to enhance civic pride and connection to the places in which people live or where they come from.
Our key ideas on how to bring philanthropy and fundraising into levelling up include:
Kickstarting place-based giving
Place-based giving schemes (PBGS) are a means of fostering local philanthropy, increasing investment in local communities, and supporting the development of local places. They bring together residents, philanthropists, corporate donors, public sector organisations, and civil society organisations to raise money and address local priorities.
Further government recognition of place-based giving, through the development of a clear narrative and focus on place-based giving around the country as well as support to kickstart initiatives through investment in fundraising capacity could deliver returns many times over – both in terms of funds generated and additional social capital and civic engagement.
Investing in match funding programmes to incentivise giving and philanthropy
Match funding for projects and programmes is a proven way of generating funds and galvanising fundraising and giving. Government has supported match funding initiatives (for instance £37m was provided to match individual donations pound for pound raised through the BBC Big Night In fundraising event) and there is real potential for match funding programmes to leverage in further funds from private individuals, companies, and grant funders to deliver initiatives and programmes that can work towards the objectives of levelling up.
Ensure effectiveness of giving incentives and maximise value of donations through the tax system
As government looks to initiatives and programmes that will contribute to levelling up, and as communities rebuild following the pandemic, we hope that opportunities are taken to ensure that wider public policy (such as the tax system which delivers benefit to charities) is able to support new ideas and programmes. As developments in technology open up new opportunities for fundraising and donations, we hope that methods of tax-effective giving are able to keep pace with this changing world by ensuring the continued effectiveness of existing mechanisms like Gift Aid. There may also be opportunities to make giving go even further in future by harnessing the power of technology or by creating new incentives for giving (for example, removing VAT on the cost of writing a will).
Championing fundraising and giving
Fundamentally, we believe that levelling up is not just about central government initiatives and Whitehall solutions, but about empowering communities and individuals to take ownership and control of their lives and local areas. We believe that charities are a crucial part of that and would urge the government to consider how it can contribute to increasing levels of giving by championing the role and value of philanthropy and local fundraising.
A strong and clear commitment to supporting philanthropy, recognising and celebrating giving, and promoting people to be part of change through donating to causes they care about would act as a powerful message from government that could help to rally the charity sector around the levelling up agenda.
Daniel Fluskey is head of policy and external affairs at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising and Rhodri Davies is head of policy at the Charities Aid Foundation