Joe Saxton: The world's charity sector fantasy football team

There are some great examples of charity practices from across the world that we should consider following, writes our columnist

Joe Saxton
Joe Saxton

With the European football championships at an end, it is time to think about things charitable again. So having done a talk at the Directory of Social Change’s CharityFair on what we can learn from charities in other parts of the world, I thought I would try to combine football and charities. This is my fantasy football team of who should be on the pitch if we tried to create the best of the world charity and community sectors.

The major donor skills of the US

The US has a major donor culture that we in the UK can only dream about. The giving culture is strong and multi-layered. At the top level Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft,  and Warren Buffett, the legendry investor, persuade very rich people to give large portions of their wealth away when they die. In towns across the States, communities encourage citizens to part with hundreds, not tens, of dollars for local good causes. This kind of giving culture takes years to develop, and we have nothing similar in the UK, let alone in the rest of Europe.

The energy and focus to grow of South Korea

South Korea is probably the most astonishing good news country on the planet. Sixty years ago they were ravaged by civil war and 35 years ago they had a military dictatorship. Now they have a vibrant economy, a flourishing democracy, and have given the world brands as diverse as Samsung and Psy with his Gangham Style. Over the past few years the government has been turning its attention to how it can make its not-for-profit sector flourish. Having visited South Korea a few years ago, there is an energy and determination to make charities thrive found in few other parts of the world.

The learning and late flowering of Australia

Australia’s clever trick as a charity sector seems to be to shed some of the cultural shackles that have held the UK sector back. They don’t talk about the charity sector, but the not-for-profit sector, so avoiding some of the sectoral confusion. They are less hung up about things like needing to pay volunteer expenses, or volunteers coming for types of community justice. Similarly many hospitals and schools are run by ‘charities’ but funded by the state. In short, they seem to be more pragmatic, and are watching our screw ups with fundraising with concern. They could be next.

The community groups of sub-Saharan Africa

In many parts of the world, where neither government nor business can be relied on to drive social improvements, community groups are the main agent of change. Indeed the work of many of our best-known overseas charities, would be impossible without community groups to partner with. They harness the energy of local people, and allow them to do together, what they couldn’t do on their own. A little money can go a long way in the hands of people who know what they want, and come from, and go back to, the grassroots. While many countries could justify a place in the team for their community groups, Tanzania’s are particularly well developed.

The campaigning skills of the UK

No global charity team would be complete without the UK. In particular I think the campaigning skills of the UK sector should be on the global team. In many countries countries campaigning is often done by a few senior folk behind closed doors. In the UK, campaigning is widely accepted - except by you know who - and the norm for many groups. It’s a culture that should make us proud on the global stage.

Joe Saxton is the founder and driver of ideas at the research consultancy nfpSynergy

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