If charities are going to survive in the 21st century, they can't rely on government alone

Only genuinely voluntary donations provide charities with funding that is sustainable over the long term. In times of austerity, charities find out the hard way

Share
Related Topics

The definition of philanthropy is the love of one human being for another, which was for me the raison d’être for founding the charity SANE – to understand more about mental illness, provide help to those in need, and campaign for improved treatments and care. I soon realised that this was not an easy mission to sustain.

Charity can be as competitive as the commercial sector and as cut-throat in the fight for funds. The proliferation of charities – there are around 160,000 – and the rate at which they have scaled up into multinational operations means the original vision can become distorted or lost.

As the Lib Dem minister Lynne Featherstone tells independent.co.uk that charities should no longer depend on government for hand-outs, how does a charity raise enough funds to operate professionally and retain its integrity? And who should pay? Moreover, does the style and manner in which those funds are obtained matter?

At SANE, we believe it does. There is the temptation, for example, to outsource the acquisition of supporters through employing “chuggers” – which we have resisted. The difficulty is that the more commercialised the approach, the greater the distance between the donor and the recipients, compromising the bond of trust.

There is also the route of relying on government funding, where charities can become laced in a corset of contracts and obligations which not only may reduce their freedom to speak out but put them at risk of over-dependence in an economic downturn.

SANE decided to be a “David” rather than a “Goliath” charity and not depend on statutory funds but primarily to seek donations from charitable trusts, companies and individuals. Not a path for the faint-hearted, but it keeps a charity closer to its roots and, most important, its benefactors. For us, times have always been tough, especially as mental illness is an uncomfortable cause, and the latest findings from the Charities Aid Foundation – one in six charities fear they may close next year – are no surprise.

The trouble is that while society is dependent on the services charities provide, we do not have the same tradition of major donor-giving as in the US, and recent reports show that the sums and numbers of donations are falling. This is a crying shame at a time when cuts in frontline services are leaving more and more people bereft and adrift.

We believe it is no longer realistic to expect charities to fulfil all the roles of government agencies or global corporations, acting as a panacea for the world’s ills. We need to rediscover our creative edge, use the technologies available from social media to digital outreach, and learn to live on genuinely voluntary donations.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices