Charities will always be there, with a voice

The government doesn't listen much to charities and prefers them to stay quiet, but they do have the backing of citizens, writes the editor of Third Sector

Stephen Cook
Stephen Cook

Few would dispute that charities and the voluntary sector are in a different place than before the last election. Under Labour the funds flowed more freely and there were fears that the sector was being co-opted. Now funding is minimal and the government holds the sector more at arm's length.

It doesn't listen much to charities and prefers them either to stay quiet and stick to good works, or provide public services in a more cost-effective and businesslike manner. Speaking out or campaigning often elicits jibes from ministers or indignation from Tory backbenchers. On the plus side, there has been promising progress with social enterprise and community-based initiatives, as our analysis on five years of the coalition government indicates.

In the forthcoming election, however, the sector is largely at the mercy of events because questions about its role are unlikely to sway voters. The results are beyond its influence. But it should remember that while governments come and go, the sector will always be there, with the backing of citizens and an independent voice.

This month we focus on fundraising as well as the general election. Our survey reveals, among other things, how unpopular some fundraising methods are. Old cynics in the game will tell you this is the price you pay for getting donations and you shouldn't worry too much about it – no one will ever be in favour of being asked for money, and you should just concentrate on what works.

Does it have to be like that? Professor Jen Shang of Plymouth University, our lead interview this month, is studying how giving can be one of the most rewarding of human experiences.

If fundraisers could isolate and bottle that feelgood factor, it would perhaps take some of the pain and stress out of persuading people to give.

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